New Delhi feels there is cause for concern in the increasingly growing friendship between Moscow and Islamabad, a concern compounded after Pakistan and Russia held their first ever foreign office consultations in Islamabad on December 14. The Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that a wide range of regional issues and key areas of mutual interest including economic cooperation and connectivity were discussed.
“The two sides exchanged views on important global and regional developments,” the statement said. “It was also decided that the next round of consultations will be convened in Moscow in 2017,” it added.
Ahmad Hussain Dayo, Director General (West Asia), led the Pakistani delegation at the talks while Alexander V Sternik, third CIS department head at the Russian ministry of foreign affairs, led the delegation from Moscow.
Coming soon after the first ever joint military exercises between Russia and Pakistan and what New Delhi saw as attempts to block Indian efforts to “isolate” Islamabad politically, levels of concern are rising in the government and among India’s strategic community.
After Moscow officially denied that it had shown any interest in the 46 billion dollars China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Alexey Dedov, the Russian Ambassador to Pakistan, was cited by the Times of India as not only declaring strong support for the China-funded project but also announcing Russia’s intention to link the Eurasian Economic Union project with the CPEC.
The CPEC, which will connect Gwadar in Pakistan’s Balochistan province to Xinjiang in China, is a major irritant for India because it passes through the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
Pakistani media reports late last month quoted senior Pakistan naval officers as saying (November 25, 2016) that the Gwadar Port had become operational and that Chinese naval ships would be deployed there to ensure maritime security. They added that Russia had agreed “in secret discussions” to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which starts in Gwadar. This was officially rebutted strongly by Russia.
Asked to comment on the issue, Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, “I would not like to comment on the Russia-Pakistan relationship. This is a third country relationship. Our own relationship with Russia remains very strong and has been further strengthened by the visit of President Putin,” to Goa in October.
However, senior Indian government officials told RIR that they were “uncomfortable” with some of Russia’s recent postures and overtures to Islamabad.
Zamir Kabulov, the Russian President’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan, said the Indian concern was “strange.”
Asked about India being concerned about rising Russian cooperation with Pakistan, Kabulov said, “The size of cooperation between Russia and India can’t be compared with the cooperation with Pakistan. It’s many hundred times more.”
Kabulov went on to say, “We cannot understand this jealousy because India has very close cooperation with America in the field that we used to be the almost only trusted partner (defence). Have you heard any complaints from Moscow about that?” he said in response to a question.