On Thursday, May 18, 2023, CPPG organized a seminar on The Russia-Ukraine War and its Implications by Major General(R) Dr. Noel I. Khokhar, Hilal-i-Imtiaz (M) Former Ambassador of Pakistan to Ukraine. Welcoming the distinguished guest speaker, Dr. Saeed Shafqat, Director, CPPG, introduced Dr. Khokhar as a highly accomplished military veteran with a range of experiences in war studies, national security, and education, who has also been the Executive Dean of the Schools of Social Sciences and Management at Forman Christian College University and Dean, of ISRA, National Defence University, Islamabad. In his military career, he has been associated with the key army training institutions; the Pakistan Military Academy, Pakistan Command and Staff College, and the National Defence University. In addition, he has worked with the United Nations as well.
Dr. Khokhar initiated his talk by describing the starting point of the war, which commenced 15 months back, as a special military operation by Russia., which would probably be over in weeks. Dr. Khokhar explained how President Putin aimed at the de-Nazification of present Ukraine. Russia surprised Ukraine by entering from Belarus territory, and thus Kyiv was surrounded from all sides. It was contingency planning but in three months, the Russian army was halted and the Kyiv did not fall, and they had to withdraw as they were suffering high casualties. By May 2022, they had to restrict the war to the eastern and southern border as they were not able to capture any land despite possessing modern warfare technology and military equipment.
Commenting on the present status of the war, Dr. Khokhar said it is a perfect stalemate; neither side has the ability to play a decisive role and no one seems to be the winner. However, he pointed out that the Ukrainians showed strong resistance, it was surprising to see that Ukraine, having no Airforce or Navy, was able to stop Russia. He observed that the Ukrainians refrained from taking advice from NATO and fought the war in their own way by mixing conventional warfare with guerrilla warfare.
Ending wars, Dr. Khokhar explained is a challenging task and in Europe, several perspectives are being discussed. One perspective claims that war is becoming a ‘strategic defeat’ for Russia thereby Russia needs to end this conflict. Another narrative asserts that Ukraine could resist and launch counter offensive, hence aims to delay any negotiations with Russia. On the contrary, the longevity of the war could make it difficult to sustain the Western alliance. As Ukraine is not willing to trade its territory and is showing a willingness to fight back, Ukraine demands a guarantee for its territorial integrity. He pointed out that war has been devastating for both sides, however, Russia may have lost more manpower. Dr. Khokhar also observed that in this war increasingly sophisticated weapons and technology is being used making this war lethal and having huge human, and financial cost.
Analyzing the Russia-Ukraine war from Pakistan’s perspective, Dr. Khokhar said that Pakistan has good relations with both countries. Pakistan’s security is not threatened on any grounds neither physically nor economically. Pakistan has minimal trade relations with Russia but Pakistan does have bilateral trade with Ukraine. There is potential to expand economic relations but language remains a main barrier and there is a need to overcome this. In 2020, trade between Pakistan and Ukraine was to the tune of 337 million dollars and it tripled to 667 million dollars until the war started in February last year. Pakistan can continue with its economic goals and increase bilateral trade with Ukraine. For this, Ukraine and Russia must have a ceasefire agreement that leads to peace. Russia is also facing isolation and sanctions from several Western countries and other states, which is affecting its arms production, armament industry, and defense capability.
Concluding his presentation Dr. Khokhar said that Pakistan can learn from this Ukraine-Russia war on how to maintain national unity under adverse circumstances. Ukraine’s notion of national identity, nationalism, and the ability to hold the state together, is something from which Pakistan can learn while continuing to maintain relations with Russia.
The talk was followed by a stimulating Q/A Session that lasted half an hour.
Dr. Jonathan Addleton, Rector FCCU, who presided over the session, in his concluding remarks thanked Ambassador Khokhar for an informative, insightful, and thought-provoking presentation and also applauded the efforts of CPPG for organizing such an engaging talk.