The Emergence of Regionalism and Pak-China-Russia Axis
The multi and unipolar rink has turned Russia to the East. China and Russia, being important regional players, have the same stance about the unipolar world and U.S. supremacy. The emergence of regionalism and the current regional structural design of Asia-Pacific have provided Moscow a platform to get into regional organizations along with other key players. The emergence of regional organizations such as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) spectacularly fortified bilateral relations of Russia with both China and India. But India aligned itself with the US, dreaming regional hegemony and is out of regional players. China and Russia established the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which is constantly expanding. In 2014 Russia devised a new set of strategies in the aftermath of economic sanctions focusing the East wing.
The Russia-West tensions forced the latter to integrate with nearby Asian economies. Earlier Moscow used to revolve around the former Soviet states and the West. Moscow’s policy shift manifests it’s striving to integrate itself into the Asia Pacific region. On the international front it is an endeavor to balance against the US led unipolar world and in regional perspective, Russia aspires to restrain the increasing US influence through actively participating in regional affairs and strengthening ties with the regional states. Pakistan, the only hurdle against India-US hegemonic designs in south Asia is inevitable for any regional alliance. Russia’s reemergence on Asian stage will provide versatile possibilities for Pakistan in trade, energy, development and defense. Last year Pak-Russia joint military drills are vivid proof of it. Pakistan must focus on flexible foreign policy by engaging the USSR in regionalism. One aspect of the Cold War was to get hold of South Asia and Moscow failed in gaining it for obvious reasons. The changing geo-political and eco-strategic conditions of South Asia have attracted Russia to regain its lost rank. Russia is actively engaging with Pak-China and other regional players excluding India on two main grounds firstly due to tense relations with Pak-China secondly alliance with the US.
South Asian strategic lines are being redrawn. The contradictory interests of the extra-regional actors in south Asia have muddled the region. Although Russian involvement in South Asia is not a good omen yet it is better to liaison with Mephistopheles than Lucifer. Russia backing the future Russia has jumped to the scene as a challenge for the US after a long time. The Russia-US transactional relations have been transitional as the US policies have been challenging to Russian clout and kudos. The US influence in Russian neighbors is threatening the Russian security and its regional hold. Russia is focusing to restrain the US influence by developing ties with China, Pakistan, Iran and the west. Russia wishes to ward off the US from the Middle East and South Asia that is why it has reemerged on Asian stage. Moscow is not only hankering after countering Washington but it is also aiming at strengthening geo-political and eco-strategic ties with Asian states. Russian policy shift is not sudden but it was decided in the 90s to search for new allies.
Like the US, Russia is not unaware of the fact that 21st century is going to be Asian Century that is why both the US and The USSR are inclined to Asia to great extent otherwise the US has no immediate danger from south Asia. Moscow and Beijing are also enjoying a good relationship and cooperating in economic and political spheres. Integration with Asian regionalism will provide an opportunity for a new image for Moscow as a Euro-Pacific country, not only as a Eurasian or European one. Since 1996, Russian foreign policy has been fairly sundry. Many Asian players, including China, Japan, India, Pakistan, and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), have provided a favorable environment for achieving Russian objectives. Asian markets lured Russia to trail Asian tracks. Russian bend to the East is to get rid of the west economic dependency. Since 2012 Moscow’s policy is China centric to counter the unipolar world. However Russia has developed ties with the rest of Asiatic zone to avoid Chinese dependency labels.
Pakistan’s alliance with the west pushed Russia towards India’s margin. Now firstly we are less dependent on the west, secondly India has aligned itself with the US and thirdly from all angles Pakistan is much more advantageous for Russia than Hindu state. Now both the states are on good terms in almost all spheres of mutual interests. In South Asia, Russia is left with no alternative except Pakistan and China. Afghanistan is a gateway to central Asian States. China, Russia and Pakistan have played their role in peaceful and stabilized Afghanistan. Along with it, Pak-China has made alternate gate way the CPEC, in case of uneven situation occurs in Afghanistan. Russia is the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. China and Pakistan’s increasing demands can easily be achieved through Russia and Central Asia. The Gwadar Port has great economic significance and holds a special position for Moscow. Russia will also get long-sought access to sea transit routes for trade. Pakistan and Russia are getting ahead tremendously in all fields of cooperation especially in strategic and defense sectors. The Beijing-Moscow strategic alliance is developing regional peace and stability. The fair-weather friendship of the US and its alliance with our eternal rival India has compelled Pakistan to look for new regional options. China-Pakistan-Russia axis can help in bringing closer South, Central and East Asia, in the best interests of trilateral cooperation.
The writer is Prof. in English and Freelance Columnist, based in Lahore, Pakistan