Casual observers of bilateral ties or even just International Relations more broadly might be misled into automatically believing that these reports imply that Pakistan’s US-backed post-modern coup regime has proxy war intentions against Russia. The reality is much more complex since the sale of arms to the Ukrainian side of that conflict doesn’t automatically imply such motivations, nor does the sale to any side in a given dispute that’s still frozen for the time being like the Kashmir Conflict.
Russian-Pakistani relations remain cordial despite the US-orchestrated but domestically driven post-modern coup that was carried out against the second-mentioned almost five months ago, yet many are now speculating about their future in light of two scandalous reports. The first emerged in mid-August and cited data from flight tracking websites to claim that Pakistan had been selling arms to Kiev via a transnational UK-led airbridge, while the second was a video that circulated at the end of the month purporting to show Pakistani-made artillery on the Ukrainian battlefield. Casual observers of bilateral ties or even just International Relations more broadly might be misled into automatically believing that these reports imply that Pakistan’s US-backed post-modern coup regime has proxy war intentions.
The reality is much more complex since the sale of arms to the Ukrainian side of that conflict doesn’t automatically imply such motivations, nor does the sale to any side in a given dispute that’s still frozen for the time being like the Kashmir Conflict. Turkiye, for instance, has sold its famous Bayraktar drones to Kiev, yet relations with Russia remain just as solid as they were before the latest US-provoked phase of the Ukrainian Conflict began half a year ago. Likewise, India is Russia’s top military partner, but that didn’t impede the rapid Russian-Pakistani rapprochement of the past few years that was only frozen as a result of the US overthrowing former Prime Minister Khan as punishment for his independent foreign policy, especially its Eurasian dimension and refusal to host US bases or grant transit rights to its drones.
While it’s true that Pakistan’s US-backed post-modern coup regime likely has ulterior political motives to sell arms to Kiev other than purely business ones, such as to portray itself as a loyal vassal that’s largely (but not perfectly) returned to the declining unipolar hegemon’s “sphere of influence”, it would be premature to assume that that it has any intention to militarily wage a proxy war against Russia at its patron’s behest like it did during the 1980s in Afghanistan. After all, President Putin was optimistic about the future of their ties as recently as half a month ago in his message on the occasion of Pakistan’s Independence Day when he praised their Afghan, counter-terrorism, and multilateral cooperation.
This closely coincided with the first earlier cited reports about Pakistan’s participation in the transnational UK-led airbridge for arming Kiev, and it’s unbelievable that the Russian leader would be so upbeat about their bilateral relations around the same time if his intelligence agencies assessed that their new South Asian partner truly had proxy war intentions against them like it did four decades ago. Not only that, but the person who was installed by the US to replace former Prime Minister Khan just said that his country is once again interested in importing Russian wheat after its devastating floods despite having snubbed a prior deal just because Moscow wouldn’t drop the price a second time.
No set of bilateral ties is perfect, but everything is ultimately manageable so long as both sides rebuff third parties’ divide-and-rule efforts. The present state of Russian-Pakistani relations is such that the US hasn’t (at least not yet) been able to fully restore its hegemonic influence over its traditional South Asian partner as evidenced by Islamabad’s continued commitment to practicing of policy of principled neutrality towards the Ukrainian Conflict. The multipolar school of thought within its Establishment (military and intelligence agencies) deserves praise for this, but if its influence is ever fully snuffed out by its more powerful pro-US peers and Pakistan publicly breaks with Russia, then their ties will have no future.
For the moment at least, and keeping in mind the mutually beneficial nature of their relations, there’s no reason to assume that Pakistani arms sales to Kiev automatically imply proxy war intentions otherwise Russia would have already signaled some sort of displeasure. Instead, both sides seem to acknowledge the other’s business interests with their rivals and are mature enough to not let them interfere with their already very sensitive bilateral relations, which is similar in spirit to what Russia and Turkiye are presently doing. They’d obviously prefer if their counterpart had no such arrangements with their rivals, but that by itself isn’t a reason to abandon mutually beneficial cooperation on other issues.