ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia on Wednesday agreed to boost cooperation in diverse areas including defence and counterterrorism, Dawn newspaper reported.
An understanding to this effect was reached during talks between the two sides here at the Foreign Office.
Pakistan’s team was led by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while the visiting Russian delegation was led by his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
During the talks, the foreign ministers reviewed the entire gamut of the bilateral relationship, besides having an in-depth discussion on situation in the war-torn Afghanistan.
While speaking at a joint press conference with Mr Qureshi later, FM Lavrov said Russia was ready to build further counterterrorism potential through provision of military equipment to Pakistan. “This is in the interest of all states of the region,” he said, adding that both sides also agreed on joint military exercises and drills.
He said Russia was committed to promoting bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in diverse fields including economy, trade and defence. He expressed satisfaction over the 46 per cent increase in bilateral trade but noted that there was a potential to increase and diversify it.
About the opportunities in the energy sector, Mr Lavrov said both countries were discussing a new protocol on the Stream Gas Pipeline project and as soon as it was signed, construction work on the project would start.
Expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, Mr Lavrov said Pakistan and Russia had agreed to facilitate the parties for an agreement to put an end to civil war in Afghanistan through an inclusive political dialogue. “We have agreed to further contribute to creating conditions to ensure that the conflicting sides achieve constructive solutions, which will allow them to end the civil war in Afghanistan through the agreements on forming inclusive power structures,” Mr Lavrov said.
Terming the relationship between the two countries mutually beneficial and constructive, the Russian foreign minister said: “We have provided 50,000 doses of anti-Covid vaccine to Pakistan and intend to provide 150,000 more”.
Without directly mentioning the Quad, Lavrov took a jibe at the US for following “divisive” policies. “Here we see uncertain processes that happened because the US promotes the divisive strategies that change everything and stability of the region,” Lavrov warned.
“We are categorically against the new division lines. Instead we promote the preservation of those structures that have been here, including the key role of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” he added.
While addressing the presser, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan was keen to build a strong multifaceted relationship with Russia. “There is a new approach and mindset in Pakistan for a relationship with Russia. 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 said, adding that Pakistan wanted to build a relationship of trust with Russia.
Lavrov welcomed the start of talks between Pakistan and India. “In the course of the talks we also touched upon the fact that India and Pakistan started talks on the normalisation of relationship, we welcome that,” the Russian foreign minister said.
Mr Qureshi said Moscow always advocated primacy of international law and multilateralism and Pakistan also always adhered to those principles.
He said the two sides had agreed to hold the intergovernmental commission (IGC) meeting this year in Moscow. He expressed the confidence that the meeting would lay the foundation of a more meaningful economic relationship between the two countries.
Referring to the stream gas pipeline project, he said: “We have overcome many of the obstacles and Pakistan wants to go ahead and is committed to the project.”
Mr Qureshi said Russia had acknowledged Pakistan’s successful campaign against terrorism and extremism.
He said he also briefed Mr Lavrov about the current situation in Kashmir.
Mr Qureshi termed the Russian foreign minister’s visit important, saying that it was taking place after almost a decade. He noted this visit would further deepen bilateral relationship and friendship and the two countries intended to maintain high-level contacts and momentum.
The relations between Pakistan and Russia had come a long way from the cold war hostility to current level of strategic relationship, with the hope of continued expansion of bilateral cooperation in various fields.
The Russian foreign minister also called on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. (Dawn and with inputs from Express tribune)