Asia's Game of Thrones
Pakistan and Russia, BFFs?

President Vladimir Putin is moving to strengthen Russia’s relationship with Pakistan, Bloomberg reports:

Cold War foes Russia and Pakistan are set to hold their first joint military drills on land, a sign that neighboring Afghanistan may avoid becoming the site of another proxy war between global powers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in need of cash, is seeking to shift away from his country’s decades-old relationship with India — which is also buying more weapons systems from the US. In doing so, Putin is embracing an old adversary that helped Mujahideen insurgents expel Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

“Russia is increasingly concerned about the security situation in Afghanistan and recognizes the critical role that Pakistan would have to play in the reconciliation process between the Taliban and Afghan government,” said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Russia isn’t Islamabad’s only new great power friend; China has been investing heavily in Pakistan too. It’s a shifting balance of power that India won’t like. In the past, India and Russia cooperated in Afghanistan, both working to limit Pakistan’s influence. If China and Russia are moving to support Pakistan, it’s going to have consequences for India’s ability to play the kind of role it seeks in Afghanistan, and could lead to greater India-Iran cooperation as neither country really wants to see a government in Kabul that is allied with Pakistan. Responding to this new regional dynamic will require serious strategic thinking in Washington.

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