Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s comments on the US could hurt Pakistan-Russia relations

The statement by Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa that the country has excellent relations with the US and could not support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could cast a shadow over Pakistan’s limited security partnership with Russia and even derail bilateral counter-terrorism military exercises bring that started a few years ago.

Bajwa’s comments, interpreted as an attempt to repair ties with old US allies that had grown lukewarm in recent years under Imran Khan’s tenure, came ahead of a planned motion of no-confidence in the Khan government in the National Assembly on Sunday.

It would be music to India’s ears if military exercises between Pakistan and Russia were suspended, people familiar with the matter said. While the depth of the India-Russia military partnership cannot be compared to Pakistan’s limited defense ties with Russia, India has been closely monitoring the developing Pakistan-Russia military cooperation, they said.

Russia has allayed India’s concerns, saying any military exercise with Pakistan would be limited in scope and focused on counterterrorism amid the presence of a terrorist network in the Af-Pak region. Russia has traditionally supported India over Kashmir and its position towards Pakistan for decades, stating that any potential arms sales to Pakistan are inherently limited, including items such as helicopters.

Russia has viewed the Bajwa statement as an attempt to mend Pakistan’s ties with the US and is studying the implications of that statement for the Pakistani army’s policy towards Russia in the coming months under a new exemption regime in Pakistan, knowledge of the matter said . Bajwa reportedly disapproved of Khan’s visit to Moscow in February amid the Ukraine crisis, although the visit yielded no concrete results. Although limited in scope, Russian and Pakistani militaries held a military exercise on Russian territory in September 2021.

Pakistan was a frontline state in US Cold War strategy in South Asia, often working against the interests of the then Soviet Union and India. The former Soviet Union, and later Russia, have often blamed Pakistan for aiding and training mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Pakistan had sourced most of its defense equipment from the US before turning to China. Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s comments on the US could hurt Pakistan-Russia relations

Russell Falcon

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