By Haider Abbas

It is now more than 24 hours when Russia-Ukraine conflict has gone over-board with Russian army walking-into Ukraine and that US has announced that it would not send its forces to defend Ukraine. All the hype to stand by Ukraine from US has as yet proved to the only lip-service, no wonder, this has prompted Ukraine President Zelensky to say that Ukraine has been left alone to the war from Russia. US and NATO have announced sanctions against Russia. However, as and what this war is to bring to the world? Is what is needed to be scrutinized from the Indian perspective, about the particular presence of Pakistan PM Imran Khan, in Moscow, during this extremely volatile situation .
Imran Khan had gone to Russia, on February 23, when war-clouds were already hovering on Ukraine, after French President Emanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, has had exhausted marathon meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was adamant to reclaim Ukraine in what was once the ‘Soviet Union’, dashing the European dream to make Ukraine get into NATO fold. NATO strategy is to reach to the entrance of Russia through Ukraine, while Russian, through Ukraine will reach the foothold of Europe.

The biggest question, to New Delhi, is to find-out as to why Imran Khan was present at such a critical juncture, and that too, in support of Russia? India has long been the ally of Russia, for more than six-decades, but today synchronizes with US, instead of Russia, as a part of India’s strategic policy shift, which obviously has made Pakistan fill into the vacuum, along with China’s support to Pakistan as well.
Pakistan was destined to go into the Russian bloc, owing to the help from China-it’s all time friend. This reckoning for Pakistan had come when Imran Khan openly refused to meet US CIA Chief William Burns on June 9, 2021, and around 10 days later, came his famous retort of ‘absolutely-not’ fame to US military bases in Pakistan. Imran Khan statement had come when US was to vacate from Afghanistan’s twenty-years of occupation, thereby, making it clear that Pakistan was no-more to be cowed down by US, which surely was nothing short of shock-and-awe, to the whole US establishment.

Now after eight months, Imran Khan sat with Vladimir Putin, at what was perhaps the biggest sobriquet to Pakistan- a ‘working-lunch’ hosted by Moscow, a country, which Pakistan had been responsible for ‘breaking’ once, but this is how politics move. It is also true that Russia, helped the same Afghan-Taliban, which broke Soviet-Union, to make US retreat from Afghanistan.

Imran Khan red-carpet Guard of Honour at Moscow Airport. Courtesy: Internet
This occasion for Pakistan had come when Pakistan did not succumb to US pressure tactics to abandon Russia visit, and was given a red-carpet protocol on Moscow airport. Imran Khan, for sure, has sent shock-waves throughout the world, as when all the nations were issuing advisories to vacate Ukraine/Russia, Imran Khan on the contrary landed in Moscow, letting the world understand, that Russia was fully in-confidence with Pakistan, which by no means, is also a big signal to the establishment in New Delhi. How come a head-of-the state visits a land in war? This has sent the world into a tizzy.

‘Working-lunch’ of Imran Khan and Vladimir Putin . Courtesy: Internet
This ‘working-lunch’ is the first ever accorded to any Pakistan leader from Russia which also was out-of-schedule, as this is given in conditions when both the nations enjoy the best of rapport , and where every minute is counted, and which also got proven, as while this ‘working-lunch’ was underway, Russia had announced a war on Ukraine. The Russian step, no doubt, was to test-the-nerves of Pakistan so as to find out as to how much Pakistan can withstand as being a part of the Russian bloc.

At around the same time when US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price was asked, if the act of aggression of Russia an indirect endorsement by Pakistan, he replied, “ask the Pakistani government what its intent was. I am just not in a position to offer an assessment of the timing of foreign counterparts’ travel to another country’, according to the transcript available on US State Department website. Gone perhaps, are the days when US dictated Pakistan foreign policies.

The other issues like energy projects, gas pipelines from Russia to Pakistan and in return a Russian access to warm-waters of Pakistan were supposedly also a part of discussion during the ‘working-lunch’, but the prime was the blowing of war-lid on Ukraine and Pakistan standing side-by-side with Russia. Russia has also stated a warning from Vladimir Putin, aimed at NATO and US etc that if anyone interferes will see ‘consequence you have never seen’ reported PBS on February 24.

Now, what is to bog India, is to situate its position not only vis a vis Russian conflict but also in context to Pakistan, as all the weaponry of India which includes T-90 third-generation tanks, Sukho Su-30 fighter jets etc need an up-gradation for which Russia is the only recourse, for the obvious reasons as India faces a joint-threat vis a via China and Pakistan alike.

What does perhaps Russia want from Pakistan? May be it wants through Pakistan that there be Russian (and also Chinese) military-bases established in Afghanistan, with the consent of Afghanistan, plus a proposal from Pakistan to Afghanistan to join CPEC, and in exchange Pakistan would get Russian gas-supplies, which will drastically decrease the Pakistan dependence on Arab oil, plus Russia might also offer its oil and gas on low prices and also on loan, which is what Imran Khan wants to boast as independent of the Arab energy resources. It may also be known that Russian supplies the largest chunk of gas which makes the whole of Europe to survive. The most immediate likelihood of ‘all this shift’ between Russia and Pakistan, is now to reflect on the growing wedge between US and Pakistan relations! As Putin subtle message is also to US, which wants to utilize India against China, therefore, Russia will bolster Pakistan against US.

Within two days of the war, there are already noises from Russia telling Ukraine to lay down arms and gain amnesty, and which is all set to happen next, given the way NATO and US left Ukraine with no help. But, now it is time to speculate, about the message this war is to bring for New Delhi? It is certainly a very hard message firstly for Taiwan, who has been also weighing on US support against China and secondly for India which is engaged in conflict with China in its Himalayas, on the support from US.
What would be here compelling is to state that NATO and US had given their open-support to Ukraine (even though a lip-service), which they did not comply, and on the contrary not even half-of-such words of support have ever echoed from them for India! What if India occurs into any such situation? Can India bank on NATO and US? Despite BECA and QUAD? This is what India has to probe now.
It would also be worthy to notify that when Vladimir Putin had visited India on December 6, last, he did not even let a wind of his Ukraine invasion be known to Indian establishment! Meanwhile, It is also learnt that Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince MbS is also to visit Pakistan on March 23, and if this would happen, the Arab States will surely prove to move-away from US even if all the Arab nations open-up to their bilateral relations with Israel.

How these entire developments are to resonate on UP elections which are underway, and where BJP is all set to find a drubbing, will have a lot of meaning as once after March, India will start to gear for the 2024 general elections, where perhaps this time, foreign-policy of PM Narendra Modi will be the issue for utmost accountability, apart from the overall mess BJP has brought to India since 2014.

Let’s see what is to make for next?
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner.


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