Q. How successful was Pakistan’s relationship with the USSR between 1947 and 1988? (N2001/P1/5c)
Relations between Pakistan and USSR have undergone many ups and downs between 1947 and 1999. Russia has always tried to have sincere relations with Pakistan but Pakistani leaders never thought in this context.
From 1947 to 1950, Russia had remained neutral in its relations with Pakistan. In 1950, USSR invited Liaqat Ali Khan to visit Moscow. However, at the same time USA invited him to visit Washington. Liaqat Ali Khan chose to go to Washington. This, clearly, snubbed the Soviet Union and in turn relations between the two suffered for some time. By 1950, the Soviet Union started to back over with India over the Kashmir issue. When Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO in the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union took this as a firm declaration in favour of the USA. This greatly worsened the relations between USSR and Pakistan. In 1955, USSR officially backed India over the Kashmir problem and promised whole-hearted support; moreover, USSR also began to Press Pakistan over the Afghan claims in ‘Pakhtoonistan’.
However, Soviet Union always desired to have good relations with Pakistan. In 1956, it offered Pak aid together with a promise to build a steel mill, if only Pak broke off its alliance with USA. Pakistan refused to do so. The relations reached the rock bottom when in May, 1960, an American Spy Plane (U2) flew from an American base near Peshawar and was shot down while flying over Russia. Russia gave a serious warning to Pakistan.
On the contrary, the relations after 1960s greatly elevated. In 1961, the soviets, as a gesture of goodwill, agreed to begin exploring for oil in Pakistan. When India accepted help from USA in its war with China, the effect was to drive Pakistan and the USSR closer together. When China began to give Pak aid in 1963, the soviets decided to take even more decisive steps to ally with Pakistan. In 1963, it loaned Pakistan £11 million and shifted from its previous inclination towards India over Kashmir to neutral stance.
The relations sky-rocketed when Ayub Khan paid an official visit to Soviet Union and further agreements on trade and oil exploration were reached. After the Pakistan-India was of 1965, the Tashkent Agreement took place through the efforts of Russian president.
Relations, however, were at a very low ebb during 1969-71 because Pakistanis effort to bring USA and China closer greatly annoyed USSR. In 1971 Russia fully supported India with military aid and Pakistan lost its East Wing.
The Period of 1972-77 was a period of good relations because Z. A. Bhutto visited Russia in 1972. Bhutto had no liking for USA. Russia had become neutral on Kashmir issue and Russia helped Pak in setting up a steel mill at Karachi which has been a great asset to Pakistan – thanks to the good relations between the two.
However, the improved relations were short-lived. The soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 caused an open rift when Pakistan accepted American aid to support the mujahidin rebels. Although Zia visited Moscow in 1984 for the funeral of Andropov, he got a cold reception. Later that year, the Soviet Union, which also disapproved of Pak’s nuclear programme began bombing raids on Pakistan. Hostile relations continued until 1988, when the soviets finally withdrew from Afghanistan.
Several high levels of exchanges of trips have taken place between the two sides since 1991. Russian foreign minister in April, 1993, and first Russian deputy foreign minister in 1994 visited Pakistan. A broad range of bilateral issues were discussed during these visits. Russia had moved away from its unconditional support to India on all issues. Pak and Russia cooperated in UN sponsored talks at Tajikistan. The Russian president extended the invitation to Pak’s Prime Minister to visit Moscow. In April 1998, Pak PM visited Moscow. During this visit many important bilateral issues were signed.
On the whole, Pakistan was not successful in keeping good relations with USSR because periods of improved relations were short lived.