Pakistan is on the threshold of new alignments under the Cold War 2.0 currently threatening to envelop the world. This was made clear in a very interesting assessment offered by Pakistan’s former military attaché to Afghanistan, Brigadier Saad Muhammad, during a talk show appearance on Oct. 9. Taking note of the Peshawar Corps Commander traveling with the Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff on a visit to North and South Waziristan “just a few days ago,” he said it was a sign of Islamabad’s increasing ties with Moscow. The ongoing Pak-Russia closeness started in November 2014 when “a defense cooperation contract was signed by us,” climaxing in the Druzhba 2016 joint ground exercises and the 2017 naval exercises.
According to the former military attaché, China remains pivotal in this new relationship with Russia meant to balance the growing US-India alignment in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. Turkey, too, has been taken on board because of its growing concerns with America in the Middle East and Europe. All three have interest in the developing military situation in Afghanistan: Turkey came in as part of the NATO forces and retains interested in a number of “Turkic” provinces of Afghanistan; China remains the biggest investor in Afghanistan’s mineral resources; and Russia retains its interest in erstwhile enemy Afghan Taliban to balance the threat it feels from NATO and America on its western frontier and is said to be helping the Afghan Taliban now controlling nearly half of Afghanistan.
Pakistan must be cautious about what role it will choose for itself in this new cold war on the basis of its experience during the cold war between America and the Soviet Union. It must follow China’s way of dealing with adversarial powers. Like China—a major trade partner of both India and America—it must not break with the United States completely and give up efforts to normalize relations with its neighbors—Iran, Afghanistan and India.
This time the cold war is not weapons-based but trade-based, as Pakistan was made to realize by September’s China-backed BRICS declaration against terrorism in Pakistan.