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Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said on Wednesday that Pakistan and Russia have an emerging partnership which has tremendous scope of collaboration in different areas including military to military ties and strategic cooperation for peace in Afghanistan. The foreign secretary and Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Dedov expressed optimism about the future of Pak-Russia bilateral relationship while speaking at an international conference on 'Pakistan-Russia Strategic Relations: Prospects for Cooperation,' which was held under the auspices of Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), an Islamabad-based think tank.

Janjua said growth in Pak-Russia relations was underpinned by progressive institutional relations, summit level exchanges, military to military ties, and strategic cooperation for peace in Afghanistan. She praised Russian role in de-escalating the recent Indo-Pak crisis and its offer for mediation between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. "I can see a positive change in the configuration of Pak-Russia relations from Moscow's nuanced policy towards South Asia," she said.

The foreign secretary also lauded the balanced Russia's policy for peace and stability in the region. Both, secretary Janjua and Russian Ambassador Alexey Dedov mentioned the upcoming high-level engagement between the two countries in Kyrgyzstan in June later this year on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.

Dedov said Pakistan's membership of SCO advanced the potential of cooperation between the two countries. Mentioning the institutional processes between the two countries, he said the high-level political dialogue is contributing to the growth of ties, whereas economic cooperation is being driven by Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. A meeting of the commission is planned for the last quarter of this year, he said.

The envoy said energy is the mainstay of Russia's economic cooperation with Pakistan and gave an overview of the developments related to the North-South Gas Pipeline. He said Russia had after the signing of inter-governmental agreement in 2015 completed its internal procedures and is waiting for Pakistani partners to complete similar measures on their side. "We are now at the stage of agreement from the implementing agency," he said. Dedov said unsettled issue of mutual financial obligations and lack of relations between corresponding banks are impeding economic cooperation.

Strategic Vision Institute president Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema in his presentation noted the progress made by Pakistan and Russia in their diplomatic and political relations, cooperation for peace in Afghanistan, military ties and the strategic stability dialogue. Dr Cheema said the two countries have been negotiating military hardware sale for few years, but have made little headway so far. He said close relations between Moscow and Delhi, $5.0 billion S-400 missile system deal and 10-year lease agreement for a new Russian SSN (nuclear-powered general-purpose attack submarine) were concerning for Pakistan.

Dr Irina Serenko from Institute of Oriental Studies at Moscow's Russian Academy of Sciences said Russia considers Pakistan as one of the major countries for the realisation of in its vision of Euro-Asian Cooperation. She said regional cooperation demands improvement in regional security situation in South Asia. Dr Yulia Sveshnikova from Moscow-based Centre for Political Studies of Russia emphasised greater conversation between Islamabad and Moscow for expanding the relations. She said there was "fear of unknown" in Moscow and because of the history of relations; the two sides need to know more about each other.

Speaking on the occasion, former ambassador Arif Kamal said Russia is exploring prospects of growth in relations with Pakistan, while keeping India engaged. He was of the opinion that policymakers in Moscow remained indecisive and vulnerable to internal debates on how and to what extent they can pursue this relationship.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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