Pakistan doing what it does best: Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds
Pakistan is a master of the duplicitous game. It is directly responsible for deaths of many Russians and Americans; firstly, during its support of the US led proxy war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, it was the conduit for training, arming and controlling the “Mujahideen” that fought the erstwhile USSR, causing close to 15000 Russian deaths. Later, Pakistan adapted and played the duplicitous game with the US in Afghanistan- supporting the terror infrastructure and hosting Osama Bin Laden while appearing to be a US partner in the War Against Terror. The killing of Osama in Abbottabad, Pakistan, exposed Pakistani double-speak and actions in front of the entire world. It was knowingly responsible for numerous deaths, often on the side it was supposed to be supporting, while claiming to be a victim of terrorism itself. One must grant the Pakistanis their guile and management of international relations and shifting interests, to extract aid and deals that disregard their duplicity.
Pakistan wants to add another feather in this duplicitous cap, hoping to “operationalise” the latest deal with the Russians- to deliver discounted Russian oil to Pakistan by late March 2023, highlighted during the recently concluded Eighth session of the Pakistan-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, held in Islamabad on January 20th, 2023, which was co-chaired by Pakistan Minister for Economic Affairs Sardar, Ayaz Sadig, and Russia’s Energy Minister, Nikolay Shulginov, accompanied by an 80 member delegation including members from the business community from Russia. As per the Joint Statement, “Both sides have agreed to work on a ‘Comprehensive Plan for Energy Cooperation’, which would form the foundation for future work and is to be finalized in 2023.” The countries also signed an agreement on custom matters, a protocol on the exchange of documents and data on the customs value of goods transported between the countries, and a working agreement on aeronautical products. The Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project (PSGPP) (1, 100-kilometre pipeline project stretching from Karachi to Punjab on which Pakistan and Russia have signed two agreements – in 2015 and 2021- for the construction of the $2.5 billion pipeline, that was slated to begin last year but could not be started due to global sanctions on Moscow) was also discussed. The joint statement stated both countries discussed “innovative ways of doing business, including through barter” and agreed to explore the option further. They also agreed to share information towards developing and improving rail and road infrastructure while nominating focal persons from both sides to discuss issues concerning connectivity and logistics in Central and South Asia.
The Pakistani Prime Minister welcoming the delegation, tweeted (@PakPMO) on 19 Jan 2023, “Welcoming the delegation the Prime Minister highlighted the importance Pakistan attached to its relations with the Russian Federation”. He further tweeted receipt of a special message from President Putin, “Putin had said that Russia considers Pakistan as its ‘important” partner in South Asia and the Islamic world and reiterated Moscow’s strong interest in deepening the bilateral relationship”. “Pakistan has been grappling with increasing energy requirements, mainly oil and gas, together with an inflating current account deficit because of oil payments. The procurement of oil has long been a centre of politics, particularly after former premier Imran Khan’s visit to Russia only a day before it launched its Special Military Operation on Ukraine on Feb 24, 2022. The oil deal now, when Pakistan is in a financial mess, is a necessity for the country, but may not be so for Russia. These developments must be seen in the context of recent upswing in the relations between Pakistan and Russia despite Pakistan continuing to backstab Russia by covertly supplying weapons and ammunition to Kyiv, according to earlier published reports.
Islamabad seems to be making money off the Russia-Ukraine war by supplying much-needed ammunition to Ukraine. Pakistani companies are also exploiting the ongoing conflict in maximizing their profit and expanding their operations in countries bordering Ukraine. Notably, CEO of Kestral, Liaqat Ali Beg, travelled to Poland, Romania, and Slovakia in May and June 2022. The report claimed that Islamabad was supposedly part of an air bridge for supplying weapons to Ukraine. It was apparently using defence suppliers and contractors operating in foreign countries to channel these shipments to Ukraine. The report revealed further that the UK used Pakistan’s Noor Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi as a key base for the transportation of military equipment for the Ukrainian Army. Islamabad-based arms supplier M/s DMI Associates was in contact with Bulgaria-based firm M/s Defense Industry Group to facilitate the supply of manufactured defence stores to the Ukrainian government. Meanwhile, the Slovakia-based defence firm M/s Chemica had purportedly contacted Pak Ordinance Factories ammunition supplier M/s Kestral, on behalf of Ukraine’s Defence Ministry, the report said citing credible sources. Pakistan’s shipping and brokering firm ‘Project Shipping is also expected to send a consignment of arms and ammunition including mortars, rocket launchers and artillery rounds from Karachi to Poland. Although this is not a single-sided transaction as in the return for the arms supplement to Ukraine. Pakistan has asked for Ukraine’s help to service and repair “TV3-117VM Engines” used in Mi-17 helicopters from the Ukrainian Joint Stock Company (JSC) ‘Motor Sich, ‘headquartered in Zaporizhzhia. As it has been an enterprise of the Ukrainian government which it took control deeming “military necessity”. This company has been involved with the production of aircraft engines as well as industrial marine gas turbines, according to Geo-Politik.3 4 The Pakistani military establishment has reportedly signed long term contracts to continue supplying ammunition to Ukraine well into 2023.
In the middle of a long extended Special Military Operations and crippling sanctions designed to incapacitate Russian economy, it may be in short term Russian interest to sell oil into new markets, but it turns out to be a lesson in International Relations, as how not to choose whom to do business with, especially with a rogue country that is directly responsible for deaths of Russian servicemen and civilians. The cynicism and doublespeak are very evident in the tweets from the Pakistani PMO wherein “Prime Minister highlighted the importance Pakistan attached to its relations with the Russian Federation” by being directly responsible for deaths of Russians, especially Russian women and children in the conflict zone. While most of the West is visibly and actively anti Russia, lapping up to US interests; global south has mostly remained ambivalent. Pakistan remains the only country that has worked according to its duplicitous nature- choosing to covertly support the US led effort to support
Ukraine against the Russians, by supplying much needed ammunition and weapons that kill Russian servicemen and civilians and hoping to do regular business with the Russians, buying their much-needed oil, at a cheap price. The ammunition and weapons that Pakistan has covertly supplied to Ukraine via the West, is directly responsible for Russian deaths (including servicemen, civilians – women and children) in the area of the Special Military Operation, especially the Donbass, and presently contested areas. Pakistan is thus complicit and has Russian blood on its hands. Pakistan’s decision to not side with the west openly and overtly support the war effort, and instead to supply the weapons and ammunition in a covert manner, reflects the long-standing policy of duplicity. It remains to be seen how this will affect the Russian government and public opinion when it compares the benefits of oil supply to a market like Pakistan when weighed against the deaths of servicemen, women and children, caused by Pakistani supplied weapons and munitions in the conflict zone