Russia is yet again trying to make new friends. What is Putin preparing for by trying to amass so many allies? North Korea, Iran, China… now Pakistan? What is going on behind the curtains?

Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif Visits Russia For Military Talks

Pakistan’s Army chief General Raheel Sharif held ‘crucial’ talks with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Monday. The two commanders discussed regional security, bilateral defense cooperation and high-level military exchanges.

Before the meeting with Russian Land Forces Commander Colonel General Oleg Sayukov, Raheel Sharif was given an “elegant guard of honor” at a ceremony held in front of Kremlin.

Oleg Salyukov thanked the Pakistani military for its contribution in countering the international terrorism. He also noted that Pakistan has to be helped by other countries in its fight against the Afghan fighters.

During his three-day visit to Russia, the army chief scheduled several meetings with senior Russian civil and military leadership, said Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Although there are no details about the possible meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the meeting is highly probable as the army chief’s visit is viewed as ‘crucial’ in Russian media.

The visit is also viewed as one of the efforts of reaching out to regional countries against the backdrop of realignments taking place in the region. It is known that Pakistan and Russia – the Cold War-era adversaries – have strengthened military cooperation in recent years, and the two countries are poised to further increase their both military and economic cooperation. According to Pakistani sources, Raheel Sharif will brief Russia’s top officials about the current regional situation.

Is the Kremlin strengthening its relations with Pakistan to make India jealous?

The visit is also believed to be one of the Moscow’s efforts to improve its relations with Pakistan after India, Russia’s long term pal, has shifted its focus to becoming friends with the United States.

This is the first visit by General Raheel as the army chief to Russia, and is widely interpreted as a sign of a possible long-term cooperation between the former cold-war enemies. The visit is particularly special to the Pakistani General as he turns 58 today, on 16 June, while being in Moscow.

It is also probable that the two counties will finalize the agreement for Russia to sell defense equipment, including MI-35 attack helicopters, to Pakistan as the latter requires this kind of cutting-edge military equipment to ‘fight terrorists in the region’. Pakistan’s Army has been waging a war against terrorism in the region since June 2014 under the title of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Russia is also interested in Pakistan to become a weapon arms exporter due to the strategic partnership between the West and India. On November 20, 2014, Pakistan and Russia signed a defense cooperation agreement that is supposed to help both Moscow and Islamabad to strengthen bilateral relations and build mutual trust. It was the first-ever visit of a Russian defense minister to Pakistan in 45 years.

Pakistan and Russia are set to hold first-ever joint military exercise

In April this year, Pakistan and Russia agreed to carry out first-ever joint military exercises as part of the two countries’ increased military cooperation.

The agreement was reached during a meeting in Moscow between Pakistan defense minister Khawaja Asif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

“We agreed to enhance cooperation in both defense industry and military training,” Asif said, as quoted by state-run Russian news agency Sputnik International.

Asif also attended a regional security conference, during which Asif and his Russian counterpart agreed to increase military cooperation in training and import of arms and equipment.

“Joint participation in military exercises will be promoted,” the Pakistan defense ministry said in a statement.

The move has been interpreted as cold calculations for the fast-changing geopolitics amid the chilled relations between Russia and India. India, for its part, may get jealous over Russia’s increased cooperation with Pakistan and come into the arms of the Kremlin, as the Russians hope.

Bilateral trade between Russia and India was below $10 billion last year and is expected to be even lower this year. However, the two countries vowed to increase their bilateral trade to $20 billion in 2015.

Report: Pakistan and India are expanding their nuclear arsenal despite global disarmament

It has been reported just today that Pakistan and India are reportedly expanding their nuclear arsenal, despite a global trend towards disarmament.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has published the stats in its Yearbook 2015, which assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security in the world.

That report said that even though the number of warheads fell from 22,600 to 15,850 between 2010 and 2015, India (90 to 100 warheads) and Pakistan (100 to 120 warheads) undertook “extensive and expensive long-term modernization programs.”

According to SIPRI’s report, as of the beginning of 2015, nine states – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – possessed approximately 15,850 nuclear weapons of which 4,300 were deployed with operational forces.

Overall, the total number of nuclear warheads in the world has significantly declined, mostly due to the U.S. and Russia’s efforts in reducing their nuclear arsenal. However, the report noted that the decline of nuclear warheads is slower compared with a decade ago, which might be contributed to the recent tensions in the world and the unwillingness of major states to simply give up their ‘power’.