Pakistan scores a diplomatic brownie point: Kayani gets Russia to ‘ignore’ old friend India
Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (right) has scored a diplomatic brownie point over India with his three-day trip to Moscow from October 6.
Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov postponed a high-level annual meeting with defence minister A.K. Antony in New Delhi so that he could meet Kayani in Moscow.
Earlier, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who was to visit India on October 4, landed in Islamabad instead to hold talks with the Pakistan foreign minister.
The two visits have caused some discomfiture in New Delhi. Russia is an ally and India’s largest defence supplier. Kayani’s visit was much more than drawing a wedge between India and Russia.
He wants Russia to partially fill the vacuum that will be created with the withdrawal of the US-led Nato forces from Afghanistan in 2014.
Russia does not have borders with Afghanistan but is concerned about the spread of religious extremism through the Central Asian republics. Russia also sees Pakistan as a key regional player.
The erstwhile Cold War foes seem to have agreed to greater military ties with agreements expected to be signed soon, government sources said.
Russia had in 2009 pointedly ignored Kayani’s wish list for helicopters, night-vision goggles and electronic warfare equipment. It has been wary of selling arms to Pakistan for fear of irking India.
It is not known how Russia reacted to Kayani’s latest list. Kayani’s Moscow visit was finalised two months ago.
The details of his meetings with the military brass weren’t publicised. Defence analyst Maria Sultan believes a Pakistan-Russia partnership can change the regional scenario.
Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, former ISI director-general, believes it’s the first step towards forming a Pakistan-Russia-China block – a move Kayani would like to take credit for.