We may be entering a period in which India’s tighter embrace of the United States brings Russia closer to Pakistan, and Russia’s bolstering of ties with Pakistan brings India closer to the United States.
Arif Rafiq

September 28, 2015
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As the U.S.-India embrace tightens, former Cold War foes Pakistan and Russia are bolstering ties with one another. Pakistan was an early Cold War partner of the United States, ultimately helping to evict the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989. While India proclaimed a policy of non-alignment, it was firmly allied with the Soviet Union, which served as its chief defense supplier for decades. Those strong ties continued following the end of the Cold War into recent years.

While India’s defense arsenal remains overwhelmingly Russian in origin, over the past four years, Washington has supplanted Moscow to become New Delhi’s top defense supplier. Moscow, realizing that its longtime partner is now seeing other people, has lifted an arms embargo on Islamabad, which is keen on modernizing its military and reducing its dependence on Washington.

Budding cooperation between Pakistan and Russia goes beyond military sales. The two countries will also boost economic and energy cooperation. And a strategic partnership may be down the road—potentially involving China.

On Opposite Sides of the Cold War

In Pakistan, the standard narrative of Islamabad-Moscow relations begins a purportedly fateful choice said to have been made in 1949. That year, Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was invited by Moscow for a state visit, which he promptly accepted. However, upon receiving an invitation from Washington, Liaquat cancelled the Moscow visit, going to Washington instead, beginning what would become an on-again, off-again relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

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