ISLAMABAD: Russia Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to promote bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in diverse fields including economy, trade, energy, and defence, besides confirming to provide the country with special military equipment for strengthening its counterterrorism capability. The resolve was expressed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during delegation-level talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Wednesday.
Speaking at a joint news conference after the delegation-level talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that he was satisfied with the outcomes of the talks, adding, “I would like to state that we stand ready to further deepen relations between Russia and Pakistan”.
During the talks, he said the two sides discussed in detail the situations in Asia-Pacific.
“Here we see “uncertain processes”, because the USA promotes divisive strategies that change everything and the stability in the region. We are categorically against the new division lines and instead we promote the preservation of those structures already exist, including the key role of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” he stated in a veiled reference to Quad alliance of the US, Japan, India, and Australia.
In the talks, he said that the two sides also touched upon “the fact that India and Pakistan started talks on normalisation of relations. We welcome that.”
He said that relations between Pakistan and Russia are constructive and mutually beneficial, adding that the two sides have established a comprehensive political dialogue and the two countries have been able to maintain the dialogue, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sergey Lavrov expressed satisfaction over 46 percent increase in bilateral trade and hit the record of $790 million.
“We both agreed that this is not the limit and we should further develop our economic relations. The key role played in this regard by the organization and the inter-governmental commission which would meet this year in Russia,” he added.
He said that the two sides also discussed energy cooperation and the flagship project of the North-South gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore under an agreement of 2015.
He said that the two sides are discussing a new protocol on the Stream Gas Pipeline project and as soon as it is signed, the construction work on the project will be started.
The Russian foreign minister expressed his country’s readiness to strengthen Pakistan’s counterterrorism capacity, including by supplying Pakistan with “special” military equipment.
“This serves interest of all states of the region,” he said, without any further elaboration.
He said that the two sides also agreed that we need to further conduct military exercise and drills in mountains, called Friendship and Maritime Exercises – Arabian Monsoon. He said that both the sides also agreed to coordinate their views at the international forums such as the United Nations. He acknowledged Pakistan’s contribution to the SCO, saying that after the country’s becoming the permanent member three years ago, it has been very active in its “practical work”, including the anti-terrorists operations. Voicing concern over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the Russian foreign minister said that Pakistan and Russia have agreed to further facilitate the hostile parties to reach an agreement to put an end to civil war based an inclusive political dialogue.
Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the two sides also discussed the situations in the North Africa, Middle East, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, and Israel.
“We believe that against the backdrop of tensions in the region, we should not forget the task of establishment of the State of Palestine,” he said, adding that Russia stands ready to facilitate direct dialogue between Palestine and Israel. About the Russian anti-coronavirus vaccine, he said that Russia has already provided 50,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan and it intends to provide 150,000 more doses.
To a question about the potential of bilateral trade, he said that "we want to make the increase in trade sustainable and to further diversify bilateral trade."
He said that the two sides also talked about the Russian LNG by some Russian companies, adding that the Russian side is waiting for the response from the partners in Pakistan about the offers that have been made.
He pointed out that one of the areas of cooperation in the energy sector is the nuclear energy cooperation between the two countries to be used in medicines and for industrial use. In his remarks, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan is keen to build a strong multi-faceted relationship with Russia.
“Pakistan, today, and I shared it with the foreign minister [Lavrov], is keen to build a strong multidimensional relations with Russia and it’s a priority for us…there is a new approach with a new mindset for Russia…this is a significant statement that I’m making today,” Qureshi said.
“This is because we feel that not just we have geographic proximity but Russia is a factor of stability in the region and the world at large,” he added.
Qureshi said Pakistan wants to build a relationship of trust with Russia, adding that Moscow has always advocated primacy of international law and multilateralism.
“These are principles that Pakistan adheres to. Our coordination and cooperation at the United Nations level has been excellent,” he added.
He reaffirmed the commitment to deepen relations with Pakistan and create a win-win cooperation between the two countries.
Alluding to the discussion that took place on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, he said the two sides have agreed to hold the intergovernmental commission meeting this year in Moscow, expressing the confidence it will lay the foundation for a more meaningful economic relationship between the two countries.
Regarding Stream Gas Pipeline project, he said "we have overcome many of the obstacles, reassuring the Russian counterpart that Pakistan wants to go ahead and committed to the project."
He said that Russia has also acknowledged Pakistan's successful campaign against terrorism and extremism.
The foreign minister said that he also briefed the Russian counterpart about the human rights situation in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Describing the visit of Russian foreign minister an important one, he said it is taking place after almost a decade.
He noted this visit will further deepen bilateral relationship and friendship and "we intend to maintain this momentum and high level contacts."
To a question, Qureshi said that there is a lot of potential for enhancing the bilateral trade, adding, "as we are pursuing the policy of regional connectivity, I see trade with Russia and many Central Asian countries grown in the days ahead."
He said that they also discussed getting of the Russian expertise in modernising Pakistan’s energy sector.
“We are also going to modernize our railways…So, there are opportunities of trade and investment in the days ahead,” he added.
A press release issued by the Foreign Office, after the meeting stated that the two foreign ministers had wide-ranging talks covering bilateral relations and regional and global issues.
It stated that Qureshi underlined that strengthening of relations with the Russian Federation was an important foreign policy priority for Pakistan and that Pakistan-Russia relations, today, were marked by enhanced mutual trust and understanding.
Noting the important progress achieved in bilateral relations, it added that Foreign Minister Qureshi agreed on the need to intensify efforts to deepen cooperation in all areas, including economy and trade, energy, counter-terrorism, security and defence, education, and people-to-people exchanges.
Qureshi that the next meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) would cover a wide agenda encompassing economic, trade and energy cooperation between the two countries and must be result-oriented.
Qureshi also reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to work with Russia for early commencement of the "Pakistan Stream" Gas Pipeline project.
Foreign Minister Qureshi congratulated Russia on developing COVID-19 vaccine, and highlighted Pakistan’s plans to acquire more Sputnik-V as well as to have joint venture for production of the vaccine in Pakistan.
The foreign minister briefed his Russian counterpart on Pakistan’s priorities relating to peace and stability in Afghanistan centered on an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
He appreciated Russia’s role in the Afghan peace process including through convening of the meeting of Extended Troika in Moscow in March 2021.
Qureshi dilated on the human rights situation in the IIOJK and underlined Pakistan’s approach to the issues of peace and security in South Asia and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He noted with appreciation the close cooperation between Pakistan and Russia within the United Nations and at other multilateral fora including the SCO. Matters relating to the Security Council reform were also discussed. “There were detailed exchanges on matters relating to South Asia, West Asia, the Gulf region, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific. The two ministers also discussed the potential of Euroasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” it added.
Qureshi added that Foreign Minister Lavrov’s latest visit would help commence a new chapter in this direction.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021