Russia Cements Ties With India’s ‘Arch Rival’ Pakistan: After Oil Trade, Direct Flight, BRICS Membership On Cards?

In a move to strengthen diplomatic relations with Moscow, Pakistan is working with Russia to start direct flights between the two nations. This initiative comes as Pakistan is actively seeking Russia’s support for its bid to join the BRICS group of nations in 2024. 

On November 22, Pakistan’s newly appointed Ambassador to Russia, Muhammad Khalid Jamali, conveyed to Russia’s state-owned media outlet TASS that both countries are actively engaged in efforts to initiate direct air services between them. 

“Both sides are in touch with each other and are working out on the modalities for direct flights,” he said. “People-to-people contacts between the two countries are very important.”

Jamali expressed optimism that introducing direct flights between Russia and Pakistan would foster closer ties among people and bolster trade relations. Underlining the economic dimension, he underscored that addressing the matter of direct flights depends on airlines grasping the profitability of the route. 

Yet, the Ambassador noted that there were direct flights in the past, which led to an increase in the number of Russian tourists visiting Pakistan. However, he acknowledged that Pakistani airlines faced financial hurdles during that time, ultimately resulting in the cessation of those flights. 

“Pakistan is a safe country, and successive governments have done their best to promote tourism in Pakistan. We need to keep working on it. And only then will we be able to attract tourists from abroad,” he stressed. 

This development appears to be the latest in a series of efforts by Pakistan to enhance its relationship with Russia, a traditionally steadfast ally of India. 

The Pakistani Ambassador further disclosed that Pakistan has submitted an application to join the BRICS and is banking on Russia’s support for its accession to the association, with aspirations to become a member as early as 2024. 

BRICS is gearing up to finalize a list of candidates for partner-state status before the upcoming summit in Kazan in 2024. During Russia’s tenure as the BRICS chair, there’s a specific focus on enlarging the “circle of BRICS friends,” particularly through an expansion strategy targeting Latin America. 

Khalid Jamali affirmed that Islamabad intends to become a member of the group under Russia’s presidency in 2024. 

The Ambassador highlighted that Islamabad is actively engaging with member countries, seeking their support for Pakistan’s membership as part of its endeavor to join this key organization. 

Russia, Pakistan Ties

Pakistan’s relationship with Russia, particularly in the aftermath of the Ukraine war, has witnessed several noteworthy developments. These events provide valuable insights into the potential trajectory of relations between the two nations. 

A major milestone in the bilateral relations between Russia and Pakistan occurred in June 2023 when the initial shipment of 45,000 tonnes, out of a total of 100,000 tonnes, of Russian crude oil arrived in Pakistan’s cash-strapped port city. 

This marked Pakistan’s first government-to-government import of Russian crude oil, a transaction of considerable importance for two key reasons. 

Firstly, it signifies the first delivery of Russian crude oil to Pakistan after Western sanctions were imposed on Moscow. Secondly, the noteworthy aspect lies in the transaction being conducted in Chinese yuan, breaking away from the traditional use of dollars. 

However, tensions arose in Russia-Pakistan relations when reports surfaced suggesting that Pakistan was providing ammunition to Ukraine. 

Putin Pakistan Russia
File Image: Leaders of Russia and Pakistan

Russian Envoy to India, Denis Alipov, responded to these reports, saying that if the allegations of arms supply by Pakistan to Ukraine are true, it would lead to significant and adverse consequences for the Russia-Pakistan bilateral ties.

In contrast, officials from the Pakistani government vehemently denied these claims, asserting that Pakistan is not involved in supplying weapons or ammunition to Ukraine. Despite the tensions over the alleged arms supply to Ukraine, the relations between Russia and Pakistan are showing signs of gradual progress. 

Islamabad is now looking to leverage Russia’s support to join BRICS, a significant move given that India, also a BRICS member, has expressed reservations about Pakistan’s inclusion in the organization. 

Meanwhile, on November 18, Russia and Pakistan engaged in discussions in Islamabad, focusing on countering international terrorism and addressing various security challenges. Both nations affirmed their commitment to strengthening cooperation in these critical areas.