Kremlin Khan is Tremblin Modi

Amid Russian advances in Eastern Ukraine, precisely at 1935 hours local time, Pakistani Premier Imran Khan landed in his Airforce-1 at Moscow Airport. The visit was unique in many ways: firstly, it was the first of any Prime Minister in 23 years; secondly, it was on the invitation of the Russian President; thirdly, it came at a time while the region was facing many geopolitical developments.

Premier Khan received a warm red-carpeted welcome by Russia in Moscow. Even Khan could not hide his excitement on the welcome preparedness. It is being reported that the welcome ceremony received by Premier Khan is exclusively given to the heads of G6 states. Significantly, Indian media constantly propagated that Khan would call off the visit owing to the current Ukrainian crisis but Premier Khan, knowing the importance of the visit, wronged the propaganda of all sorts.

While the artillery shells were raining on the strategic and military importance locations within Kiev, and Russian tanks were ravaging the fields in the Dunbas region of Eastern Ukraine, all eyes were on Kremlin and its President Putin. When Kremlin carried the utmost importance, Premier Khan reached out to Kremlin to increase its importance.

Meanwhile, Indian media did not give up its habit of negative propaganda against Pakistan. The Desi propaganda machines of India started reporting that though the Pakistani Premier is in Kremlin, President Putin will not meet him as he has a war to look after. Some of them claimed that Premier Khan is cutting short his visit because of the heavy retaliation of the Ukrainian forces as missiles fired by Ukraine are reaching the Kremlin. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin ensured that his guest got the due attention. Premier Khan visited the memorial site for the WWII soldiers and laid the floral. He also visited the Moscow Cathedral Masjid and met with Grand Mufti. He hailed President Putin’s efforts to condemn Islamophobia and how he built more than 2000 Masjids and Islamic centres in Russia to cater to Russian Muslims’ religious needs. Notably, initially, the lunch meeting between both the leaders was planned for 3 hours, but that was extended to 4 hours by President Putin. Interestingly, the first half of the lunch was attended by the cabinet members of both sides that went according to the plan, but President Putin extended his closed door meeting with Premier Khan. Of course, it shows that both the leaders had outstanding deal issues to talk about.

If we peep into the past of bilateral ties between Pakistan and the former Soviet Union, of course, both did not enjoy good relations since Pakistan always saw itself allied with the United States of America. Right after Pakistan came into being, Pakistan was faced with an option between capitalism and communism to click. As the immediate leadership of Pakistan was inclined towards the western quarters due to their previous relations with them and their awareness of the only western system of governance as they studied in British universities, they took a side against the Soviet Union. Since as early as 50s of the previous century, Pakistan became an active ally of the US against the Soviet Union due to its security reasons. In between, the bilateral ties between Pakistan and The Soviets improved during the multilateralism of the Bhutto era. Later on, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought Pakistan and the US closer in the Cold War. Pakistan and US actively supported Mujahideen of Afghanistan, who fought against the Soviet Union. The withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan made Kremlin economically so weak that Russia was forced to withdraw from Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union overnight became Russia. The extent of the idea of the Soviet Union is still so much persistent in Russia that the population to date sees Pakistan as a foe. After all, Pakistan was at the forefront of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US. Frankly, it would not be odd of a statement to make that Pakistan helped the US be the most incredible power of the world once by playing a significant role in defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

To me, the timing of the visit of Premier Imran Khan of Russia at this hour was a statement itself. Though the visit was planned last month without knowing the Russian intentions of Ukrainian invasion, the Russian President Vladimir Putin standing with Pakistani Premier Imran Khan, while Russian Armoured Divisions were ravaging the once Soviet fields of the Eastern Europe was enough to remind world especially the US about once the shameful withdrawal of the T-72 tanks of Armoured Divisions from Afghanistan. It represented that those who helped the United States to shrink the Soviet Union into Russia are today standing with Russia while taking a piece of the Soviet Union back.

Pakistan, under Premier Imran Khan, believes in multilateralism, and without taking any sides, Pakistan wants to have good relations with all nations, including India, to boost its economy. Before boarding his Airforce-1 for Kremlin, he categorically highlighted that he believes in resolving conflicts through dialogue rather than wars. Pakistan maintains its neutral position in the Ukrainian conflict. All Pakistan seeks is better economic ties with all nations. Notably, the focus of Premier Khan’s multilateralism is to multiply the economy of Pakistan. He wants to expand the economy to the extent that makes it self-reliant to cater for the requirements of his dream of Pakistan as a welfare state.

Interestingly, after years of betrayals, the US forced Pakistan to stand with Russia at this hour. There are several odious facts about bilateral ties between Pakistan and the US that need to be highlighted repeatedly. Time and again, the US left Pakistan when it needed its help. Pakistan was an active ally of the US throughout the Cold War, but at the end of the Afghanistan war, the US left Pakistan in a mess of internally troubled neighbours. As once, Hillary Clinton rightly pointed out that the “US left the region with Mujahideen and the Stinger missiles and asked Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to deal with it”. Of course, Pakistan did not desire for an American gift in the shape of a civil war in Afghanistan as it increased the influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. It was an unnecessary burden on the already fragile economy of Pakistan. The US hurriedly left the region in a mess for Pakistan, but to add salt to the wounds, it sanctioned Pakistan in the early 90s.

Post 9/11, once again, the US wanted Pakistan’s alliance in War On Terror against Afghanistan. Suddenly, the sanctions were removed, and Pakistan once again was an active ally of the US. The fruits for Pakistan in the 20-year war were that the impact of the War On Terror reached not only in cities but the villages of Pakistan. The security forces of Pakistan relentlessly fought against terrorism. As Premier Imran Khan once rightly called it, someone else’s war gave Pakistan more than 80,000 body bags, more than 100,000 lost limbs, uncountable widows and orphans, and more than 200 billion dollars as economic loss. When Pakistan was seeking and expecting a remedy from the US, suddenly, it left the region in the middle of chaos. Once again, to add salt to the wounds, the US freezes $9.5 billion of people of Afghanistan in western banks and leaves the people of Afghanistan to face a humanitarian crisis on their own. Taliban, who took Afghanistan back at the behest of power, are blaming the US for leaving a destroyed Afghanistan without compensating the people of Afghanistan. Ultimately, Afghanistan facing a humanitarian crisis, bankruptcy, fragile security, and lack of opportunities threaten Pakistan. Already Pakistan is facing the outcomes of this US crafted chaos in the shape of terrorists of BLA and TTP using American leftover arms against Pakistan’s security forces.

Today’s Russia is different as it believes in bilateral relations with the world. Since Premier Imran Khan took office, his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin brought both nations closer. Especially the meeting in Beijing during Winter Olympics was the turning point. The Russian President invited Premier Khan to visit Russia. The idea is to enhance bilateral ties for several reasons.

Pakistan seeks foreign direct investments in different sectors, including energy, information technology, emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, special economic zones of the CPEC and several other industries, including agriculture. Pakistan sees Russia as a potential partner in its economic goals. Pakistan wants Russia to enhance connectivity between Pakistan and Russia through Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs). Pakistan wants Russia to link itself with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and invest in SEZs and real estate projects of Pakistan.

Notably, Russia wants to link itself with CPEC and Gwadar port for economic and strategic needs. Russia eyes upon the Indo-Pacific region keenly due to the American presence in the region in the shape of AUKUS and QUAD alliances. It is important to note that Russian reservations on the Indian portrayal of the frontline of the US against China in the US-China trade war are increasing day by day. The January 2022 Putin visit to Beijing is evidence itself. When China and India are facing each other in Eastern Ladakh and India’s Northeastern front, President Putin not only visits China but signs several deals with President Xi. Two significant outcomes of the Putin-Xi meeting were a 30-year gas pipeline contract between Russia and China and a pledge to increase bilateral trade from approximately $117 billion to $200 billion.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is still facing terrorism that affects Afghanistan and Pakistan and is a point of concern for Russia and China equally. Currently, two of the provinces of Afghanistan, Kunar and Nangarhar, are strongholds of ISIS-Khurasan. Taliban have been fighting against ISIS-K since their emergence long before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. Currently, ISIS-K is facilitating Terrorist outfits like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Taliban are indeed aware that as ISIS-K is a threat to their regime and Afghanistan, Russia has concerns over IMU, China is concerned about ETIM, and Pakistan is actively fighting against TTP.

In the recent Premier Khan’s Beijing and Kremlin visits, he highlighted and shared the importance of eradicating terrorism from Afghanistan with both President Xi and President Putin. Pakistan wants a terrorist-free Afghanistan and wants Russia and China to include Afghanistan in their economic endeavours. Pakistan wants better connectivity of Afghanistan with Russia and China to create better economic opportunities in Afghanistan. Pakistan believes that an economically self-sufficient Afghanistan would indeed put an end to decades of insecurities.

Importantly, countering terrorism in Afghanistan is beneficial for the regional players and is for the rest of the world, especially the western world. We should not forget that the Chief of the British Intelligence MI5 has recently indicated that Afghanistan is still vulnerable to the terror breeding that can affect the West. Indeed ISIS-K is considered the backyard of ISIS or Daesh, and it is a known fact that Daesh has been involved in terror attacks in the cities of the western world. It is need of the hour that the Taliban who are actively fighting against the ISIS-K in Afghanistan, must be helped to do it more effectively—leaving the Taliban on their own in a humanitarian crisis to look after in Afghanistan is a dangerous option. If the Taliban are helped to counter the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, they can fight against the menace of ISIS-K more effectively.

In both the meetings in Beijing and Kremlin, Pakistan has emphasised more multilateral efforts to counter terrorism in Afghanistan. Premier Imran Khan believes the Troika Plus is the proper forum to ensure regional security. In this regard, Pakistan seeks Russia and China to play their role by hosting Troika Plus meetings. Importantly, Troika Plus countries acknowledge the spoiler’s role of India in Afghanistan against Pakistan. Indeed, India used its unholy presence in Afghanistan to destabilise Pakistan in the past. It is time to free Afghanistan from terrorism and its financiers & facilitators like India.

Russia getting closer to China and Pakistan is indeed a wake-up call for India which projects a two-front from Pakistan and China. Enhanced economic relations between China and Russia is an indication that Russia wants to distance itself from Modi’s India that is inclined towards its ever-growing alliance with the US. Russia is eyeing connecting itself with CPEC to reach the Indian Ocean and all-important Gulf states via Gwadar. It would indeed help Russia feel its presence against AUKUS and QUAD in the Indo-Pacific region. Importantly, India is part of the QUAD alliance, which is not a military alliance but has conducted naval exercises in the past.

India held two of its top-level CCS meetings on security right after Premier Khan’s Kremlin visit. It shows the importance of the visit and fears in the Indian power hubs. Kremlin Khan is indeed Trembling Modi.

Pakistan, under Premier Imran Khan, believes in multilateralism, and without taking any sides, Pakistan wants to have good relations with all nations, including India, to boost its economy. Before boarding his Airforce-1 for Kremlin, he categorically highlighted that he believes in resolving conflicts through dialogue rather than wars. Pakistan maintains its neutral position in the Ukrainian conflict. All Pakistan seeks is better economic ties with all nations. Notably, the focus of Premier Khan’s multilateralism is to multiply the economy of Pakistan. He wants to expand the economy to the extent that makes it self-reliant to cater for the requirements of his dream of Pakistan as a welfare state.

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About Raja Faisal 9 Articles
Raja Faisal is Executive Editor at Melange Magazine. He is currently a host on geopolitics at PTV World. He is also the Director of Communications at Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR). He tweets at @RajaFaisalPK