Russia not keen to stop defence supplies to Pakistan as Sitharaman visits Moscow

“We cannot embargo our deliveries to Pakistan. Because it is a sovereign state with a sovereign policy,” Gleb Ivashentsov from Russian foreign ministry’s official thinktank, RIAC, said.

Photo courtesy: Russian Embassy in New Delhi
Photo courtesy: Russian Embassy in New Delhi

Dhairya Maheshwari

Russia’s former in-charge of India and Pakistan, Gleb Ivashentsov, has defended Moscow’s growing strategic ties with Islamabad, stating that “refusing dialogue with Pakistan would not be in the interest of Russia.”

“We view Pakistan as a major state with around 200 million people. It is a nuclear state. It is a country which plays an important role in regional and international matters,” Ivashentsov said through video conferencing from Moscow. The former director of Russian foreign ministry's Second Asian Department (2AD) was speaking at a forum, Regional Security: A view from Moscow and Delhi, organised simultaneously in New Delhi and Moscow on Tuesday.

The discussion was organised at the Russian Embassy in Delhi ahead of the International Security Conference in Moscow over April 4 and 5. In its seventh edition, the grand event will see the participation of 850 delegates from 95 countries, including Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who embarked on her maiden three-day visit, as defence minister, to Moscow on Monday.

“It is noteworthy that Pakistan has joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) since it is a regional counter-terrorism organisation. The participation of Pakistan in this framework should make a positive difference,” Ivashentsov, who is a member of Russian foreign ministry’s official think tank Russian Council for International Affairs (RIAC), said. Both India and Pakistan were admitted as full-time members of the Beijing-headquartered eight-member bloc at the grouping’s summit in Astana last year.

The former diplomat stated that Moscow couldn’t go back on its growing military cooperation with Pakistan, a development which has raised hackles in New Delhi.

“We cannot embargo our deliveries to Pakistan. Because it is a sovereign state with a sovereign policy,” Ivashentsov said, adding that Moscow had, so far, only supplied helicopters to Pakistan.

Noting that the road to peace in Afghanistan passed through Pakistan, Russian MP and deputy leader of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security Alexei Kondratiev stated that international cooperation in Afghanistan was being hampered by the US.

“There is an attempt to portray Russia as a force of evil in Afghanistan. There is an information war against Russia in Afghanistan’s media in this process,” Kondratiev said.

“It affects a lot of aspects of political and economic cooperation between Russia and Afghanistan,” he added.

The Russian parliamentarian held up Russia’s aerial campaign in Syria as an example that could be replicated to help bring about peace in Afghanistan. He noted that Russian forces’ assault on the Islamic State in Syria had largely been successful as it was able to take care of political, military and social components.

Kondratiev remarked, “Russia has been largely successful in its Syrian operation because it could simultaneously take up all these three factors into consideration and these learnings are vital for situations like that in Afghanistan.”

Appreciating the Russian viewpoint on taking Pakistan along on an international agreement in Afghanistan, former Indian Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar, however, added that Islamabad’s continued support for international-banned terrorist organisations must not be overlooked by Russia and other countries of the region.

“We have to see how things are going on in Pakistan because that is where terrorism is receiving all its support,” Sajjanhar, who has served as India’s envoy to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia, said.

Highlighting the importance of a peaceful Afghanistan for the overall security environment of the region, Sajjanhar said, “The security, stability and peace in Afghanistan are extremely vital and important for peace not only for Afghanistan’s neighbours but also for India, Central Asia and Russia.”

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