China, Pakistan and Russia are inching closer to form an alliance to stabilise war-torn Afghanistan, where the three countries see the emergence of Islamic State terror group as a common threat, a media report on Monday said.
The strategic calculation are changing after competing for well over two decades. Islamabad and Moscow are all set to become part of a possible alliance in a dramatic turnaround in their otherwise frosty relationship for decades.
What has compelled Pakistan and Russia to join hands is apprehensions that the United States may not be interested in bringing stability to Afghanistan for its own strategic interests, The Express Tribune reported.
“These fears have now opened up the possibility of an alliance between Pakistan, Russia and China in an unprecedented development that will shape the future of this volatile region,” according to the report.
It quoted military and Foreign Office sources as saying that the three countries were inching closer to formalising their relationship with an aim to bring regional stability, particularly seeking a political solution to the Afghan war.
The sources said Pakistan as well as China and Russia reached a conclusion that the US wanted to prolong the conflict in Afghanistan. This situation, officials pointed out, has left Pakistan with no other option but to seek a regional solution by involving Russia, China and Iran.
Moscow already hosted two meetings involving Pakistani and Chinese officials to discuss the Afghanistan problem. Another such gathering with a larger audience is scheduled later this month. The objective of these meetings is to evolve a regional consensus for the lingering conflict in Afghanistan.
The biggest fear among the regional countries, including China and Russia, is the emergence of IS in Afghanistan. There were reports that thousands of fighters were being sent to Afghanistan from Syria, a development, Pakistan, Russia and China believe is aimed at further destabilising the war-torn country.
These countries suspect the US may be using IS as a proxy to further its interests, particularly to counter China and a resurgent Russia.
For Pakistan, this is dangerous scenario as prolonged instability in Afghanistan will continue to cast shadow on its progress and stability. “Due to these compulsions Pakistan has now reached out to Russia and other regional countries,” commented defence analyst Lt Gen (retd) Amjad Shoaib.
Gen Shoaib, who is closely connected with the military establishment, endorsed the assessment that the US was not ready to bring stability to Afghanistan. He also claimed that Pakistan has already conveyed to the Trump Administration that Russia and China were coming in a big way in Afghanistan if the United States does not take steps to clear the mess.
In a trilateral meeting in Moscow in December, Russia and China agreed to a flexible approach to remove certain Taliban figures from the UN sanctions lists as part of efforts to foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban.
However, the US was not ready to accept it, something officials here said showed Washington's lack of interest in seeking a peace deal. In fact, Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, before being killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province in May last year, was pushing for this demand in order to show sceptics within his insurgent group the benefits of seeking the peace process.
The Afghan problem has brought Pakistan and Russia close in terms of strategic and defence cooperation. Last week, the Pakistan army took a high-powered Russian military delegation to the volatile North Waziristan Agency to give them a firsthand account of the country's anti-terror gains.
The development is part of a series of steps taken to open a new chapter in Pakistan-Russia ties that have long been held hostage to the politics of 'Cold War' era.
The rapprochement began in 2011 when Pakistan decided to broaden its foreign policy options after its ties with the US deteriorated due to a secret raid at Abottabad to kill Osama bin Laden in May that year and later the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in NATO airstrikes along the Afghan border.
“This is a realistic approach and is good for our interests,” said Gen Shoaib, who added that increased cooperation with Russia did not necessarily mean that ties between Pakistan and the US lost their utility.