Sharif's Moscow Visit

12 May, 1999    ·   189

Adnan Sattar says Sharif's visit to Moscow was the single most important diplomatic event for Pakistan in recent years

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to Moscow was the single most important diplomatic event in recent years. Given the mutual distrust that has characterised Pak-Russian relations for the last fifty years, the visit was indeed an historic landmark. The discussions between Mr. Sharif and the Russian President Boris Yeltsin have provided for qualitatively a new relationship between the two countries on the eve of the 21st century.  Pakistan 's active role as a front-line state in the war against "godless" communism" proved a constant strain in Pak-Russian relations for a long period.



Pakistan had to pay a heavy price for its involvement in the cold war and its policy of kowtowing the western line. A few tanks and aircrafts got on charity cannot compensate for the image of a dumb stooge in the comity of nations. The United States cajoled, pampered and fed Pakistan as long as it could be used as a handmaiden of western capitalism against "Godless communism". As soon as the Soviet Union crushed under its own weight, Pakistan was conveniently relegated to the sidelines. In return for decades of unquestioning loyalty and devotion to the West, all Pakistan got was crippling economic sanctions. As the world reels under the effects of a merciless uni-polarity, there is an increasing realisation in Pakistan of the need to forge closer ties with neighbouring countries including Russia .



For one thing, history moves on rendering fixed positions obsolete. In the tumultuous world of international politics there is a constant need to think afresh.  It's heartening to note that both Moscow and Islamabad have finally pledged to bury the past and move ahead as good friends and neighbours. "As of today, we leave our past behind and buried, and take a new step in our relations", President Yeltsin said in a reassuring tone. The decision of the two countries to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status is significant for its implications on economic and trade relations between Russia and Pakistan . Gone are the days when ideology was the main determinant in international relations. Economics and trade is the name of the game in the contemporary world order and the earlier Pakistan comes to terms with this fact the better. As Russia embraces market reforms, there is greater convergence of views and wider scope for economic co-operation between Islamabad and Moscow .



Russia 's potential role as a mediator between India and Pakistan can hardly be exaggerated. Once Islamabad   is able to shed its historic mistrust, Moscow could indeed play an effective role in helping the two eternally squabbling siblings resolve their outstanding disputes, including the problem of Kashmir . Needless to say that Russia has considerable clout with New Delhi and even managed to broker a peace accord (Tashkent Agreement) in the wake of the 1965 Indo-Pak war.



One major stumbling block in friendly relations between Islamabad and Moscow is the former's involvement in the Afghan war with all its repercussions for Russia . Moscow has never made any bones about its concern over the likely spill-over of Talibanisation into Central Asia and even parts of Russia . In his talks with President Yeltsin, Nawaz Sharif did pledge to moderate Islamabad 's pro-Taliban stance. Whether this actually translates into foreign policy remains to be seen. It's high time Pakistan ceased its attempts to influence events in Afghanistan and gave priority to a peaceful settlement.  The recent events in Iraq and Kosovo have laid bare the hegemonistic designs of the United States . Washington has unashamedly taken on the role of the international policeman with no checks and balances whatsoever. This anarchic scenario calls for concerted efforts to offer resistance on a diplomatic plane.



It's high time for Pakistan to wake up from its slumber and rethink its foreign policy in the light of emerging geo-political and economic realities.