Pakistan, Russia discuss Afghan peace, economic and energy cooperation

Pakistan, Russia discuss Afghan peace, economic and energy cooperation
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (2L) holds talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (2R), in Islamabad, Pakistan, on April 7, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2021

Pakistan, Russia discuss Afghan peace, economic and energy cooperation

Pakistan, Russia discuss Afghan peace, economic and energy cooperation
  • Review counterterrorism and defense ties during first visit by a Russian foreign minister to Pakistan in nine years
  • Former adversary Russia is attempting to build military, diplomatic and economic ties with Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani and Russian foreign ministers on Wednesday held delegation-level talks in Islamabad and discussed Afghan peace, economic diplomacy and security and energy cooperation, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said. 
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Islamabad on a two-day official visit on Tuesday, the first by a Russian foreign minister in nine years. On Wednesday, today, he held delegation-level talks with his Pakistani counterpart and will also meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“During our talks we considered ideas to further promote #EconomicDiplomacy and discussed progress in the area of energy cooperation including the Pakistan-Stream Gas Pipeline project,” Qureshi said on Twitter, referring to a gas pipeline due to be built by Russia and stretching 1,100 km (680 miles) from Lahore to the port city of Karachi. “We reviewed our cooperation in the field of security including counter-terrorism and defense.”

Qureshi said the two leaders had “agreed on the need to promote greater people-to-people contact through greater collaboration across a diversity of fields, including education.”

Qureshi said Pakistan and Russia shared views on peace and stability in Afghanistan and the larger South Asia region, as well as human rights abuses in disputed Kashmir. 

“We are confident that this visit will give further momentum to our deepening friendship and we remain committed to expanding our relations in diverse areas through further high-level contacts,” Qureshi added. 

Hours before Lavrov’s arrival in the Pakistani capital, Qureshi said in a video message: “Russia is the most important country in this region, no one can deny its strategic significance and value. The visit clearly indicates that Pakistan’s ties with Russia are taking a new turn.”
Indeed, in recent years, Pakistan’s former adversary Russia has been attempting to build military, diplomatic and economic ties with the South Asia nation, particularly to help open up a fast-growing gas market for Moscow’s energy companies.
Though the Moscow-Islamabad rapprochement is in its infancy, a slew of energy deals and growing military cooperation promise to spark life into the Russia-Pakistan relationship that was dead for many decades.
The cozier diplomatic ties have so far also focused on Afghanistan, where Russia has cultivated ties to the Afghan Taliban militants who are fighting US troops and have historic links to Islamabad. Moscow says it is encouraging peace negotiations.
Pakistan developed diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union in 1948, though these ties witnessed ups and downs during the Cold War period. Relations between the two countries particularly deteriorated after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, followed by Pakistan’s decision to provide assistance to Afghan militias resisting the Russian Red Army.
In recent years, however, Pakistan and Russia have strived to improve relations in response to the strengthening of diplomatic relations between India and the United States.
According to a statement released by the Pakistani foreign office on Monday, the two sides plan to review their bilateral relations during Lavrov’s visit and discuss ways to broaden and deepen cooperation in diverse fields.
“Pakistan and Russia enjoy friendly and cooperative relations based on mutual respect, trust and understanding,” the foreign office statement said.
It added: “Bilateral cooperation is growing across a wide range of areas of common interest including in security and defense, counter-terrorism, and the Afghan peace process. Over the recent past, deepening collaboration in economic, trade and energy sectors has been the focus of the two governments.”
During a trip to Moscow in 2018 by Pakistan’s then foreign minister, Khawaja Asif, the two countries announced plans to establish a commission on military cooperation to combat the threat of the Daesh militant group in the region.
They also agreed to continue annual military training exercises that began in 2016 and followed the sale of four Russian attack helicopters to Pakistan, as well as the purchase of Russian engines for the Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17 fighter jets that Pakistan’s military assembles on its own soil.
Russia and Pakistan have also been negotiating potential energy deals worth in excess of $10 billion, according to Pakistani energy officials. The biggest deals focus is on gas supply and infrastructure to Pakistan, one of the world’s fastest growing liquefied natural gas (LNG) import markets.
In October 2018, Pakistan and Russia signed an inter-governmental agreement on energy, paving the way for Russian state-giant Gazprom to enter negotiations to supply LNG to Pakistan.