'Hello Russia, China, bye bye Washington'

ISLAMABAD: Comments made by Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif in his address at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad on Tuesday, 25 November, suggest that his country appears to have ditched its old ally- the United States in favour of new friends in its immediate neighbourhood- Russia and of course China. “The Americans have been our friends for a long time since the 60s and the 70s, but their reliability is relative,” he told a packed audience. But while placing a question mark on the reliability of Washington as a friend of Pakistan, the defence minister also said “We should seek solutions to regional problems from our own shores, not from across the pond.” He called Russia “an emerging superpower”, one that was economically well-established despite sanctions against it. “Being in the same region, Pakistan must have a sound relationship with Russia,” he said.

Mr. Asif said Pakistan had recently concluded a very important agreement with Russia; one which would allow it to purchase armaments from the Russian Federation. The arms that Pakistan was getting from Russia were going to be used primarily for anti-terrorism operations, Mr Asif said.

“Pakistan must pursue its own national security goals; we don’t want to antagonise our neighbours, countries of the region and greater powers,” he said.

Dawn reports that, “Mr Asif took pains to note that he was airing his own opinions and that what he said did not necessarily reflect government policy. But the way he framed his points, it seemed as if he was building a case for an alliance with another global power, one that was nothing like the untrusting US.”

Coincidentally, Mr. Asif’s remarks come at a time, when Pakistan’s neighbour India is seen to be getting closer to the US and has consistently been purchasing more armaments from US ally Israel, than its traditional weapon’s supplier- Russia. Pakistan’s change in stance also coincides with the impending withdrawal of allied troops from the US and the assertions by Pakistan and China that they see a larger role for themselves in Afghanistan, going forward. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also recently gone on record to state that his country was constantly pressured by Pakistan to reduce India’s presence in Afghanistan. The comments of Pakistan’s defence minister, assume significance in the light of these developments as they seem to present a clear change in geopolitical alliances in the region. 

Mr. Asif went on to say that “American foreign policy has been disastrous for this region”, referring to South Asia and the Middle East, adding that, “for all times to come, the geography of this region has been changed”.

Mr Asif warned that Pakistan had to be very careful. “We are still paying the price for our intervention in Afghanistan. The disintegration of this region on sectarian and ethnic lines is in process.”

He said that US ‘disappointment’ with Pakistan’s contribution to the ‘war on terror’ was unjustified. “We’ve had a historic relationship with the US since independence. It has had its highs and lows,” he said.

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