As Russia warms to Pakistan

Delhi must strengthen its own ability to influence developments in Afghanistan

Moscow's warm reception to the Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, last week, Beijing's recent outreach to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, and Washington's latest move to resume aid to Pakistan underline the great power adaptation to the unfolding uncertainty in the Af-Pak region.

Russia now seems determined to reduce the political distance between itself and Pakistan. For decades now, Moscow's South Asia policy had focused on cultivating a special relationship with India and keeping Pakistan at arms length.

China, despite its "all-weather" partnership with Pakistan, has begun to diversify its regional policy. While Rawalpindi remains its principal partner in the subcontinent, Beijing is stepping up an independent engagement with Kabul. China has now signalled its intent to develop a strategic partnership with Afghanistan.

The United States, whose relationship with Pakistan has been on a roller coaster over the last couple of years, does not want to let the the bilateral ties deteriorate any further. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration has waived the conditions imposed by the US Congress for disbursing military and economic assistance to Pakistan.

Together, the Russian, Chinese and American decisions underscore two important strategic realities. When circumstances change and interests are redefined, great powers have no hesitation in recasting their foreign policies. There is no room here for sentimentalism.

Consider for example the twists and turns of the Sino-US relationship over the last few decades.

During 1950-53, America and China fought a costly war in the Korean peninsula. America saw the death of 40,000 soldiers in that war, and Chinese casualties are estimated at 400,000. Less than two decades later, Washington and Beijing became allies against the Soviet Union.

Less than four years ago, the Obama administration was actively considering the idea of a geopolitical accommodation with China. Now Washington is pursuing a military "pivot to Asia" to counter Beijing's assertiveness.

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