Pakistan, Russia on track to develop strong relations
Recent visit of Sergey Lavrov to Islamabad an opportunity for Pakistan to modify its policy towards Russia, say experts
Pakistan and Russia are on track to develop strong political and economic relations, but still there is a need to take some confidence-building measures to boost defence and commercial ties, experts say.
Addressing a webinar organised by Lahore-based thinktank Centre for Peace and Security Research, diplomats, political leaders and analysts said the recent visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Islamabad was an ideal opportunity for Pakistan to modify its policy towards one of the most powerful countries in the world.
During his two-day visit in April, Lavrov discussed bilateral ties, including counter-terrorism, socio-economic ramification of the Covid-19 and economic cooperation. It was the first visit by a Russian foreign minister to Pakistan since 2012.
In late May, both the countries also signed a deal to develop a planned 1,100-kilometre pipeline to transport imported natural gas from a liquefied natural gas terminal at Port Qasim near Karachi to Kasur in Punjab province. Construction work on the $2 billion project is expected to be completed by 2025.
Riaz H. Khokhar, former ambassador of Pakistan to Soviet Union; Asif Durrani, former ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE; Maj-Gen Noel Khokhar, Pakistan’s ambassador to Ukraine; and Ayaz Sadiq, former Speaker of National Assembly; shared their views during a webinar on Pak-Russia Relations: Prospects and Challenges.
Pakistan’s strategic location
Dr Naveed of Centre for Peace and Security Research moderated the webinar and shed light on existing bilateral relations between Pakistan and Russia.
“I firmly believe that for many practical and moral reasons, we have to rise above the quagmire of our fallacious misunderstanding of Afghan ‘jihad’ era and other irritants with Russia and embrace the opportunity to improve our relations with Russia and other courntries,” said Dr Naveed.
Maj-Gen Noel Khokhar said Pakistan has a strategic location and it can play an important role by connecting various countries in the region.
“We can connect Central Asian states through our network of roads and infrastructure and play a vital role,” he said.
Asif Durrani said Pakistan has an opportunity to transform its policy and take advantage of its geographical location as a viable transport hub.
“We can provide Central Asia and Russia an access to the warm waters through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) making it the central artery of the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.
It’s time to revisit policy
Ayaz Sadiq, who chaired several parliamentarian committees in the previous governments, discussed the pipeline project and said bureaucratic hurdles delayed execution of the landmark initiative launched in 2015. He said that the project would strengthen the Pakistan-Russia relations.
Riaz H. Khokhar, who served as an ambassador to Soviet Union during 1968-71, said gas pipeline project will pave way for strong bilateral relations with Russia.
“The pipeline deal will help facilitate Russian President Vladimir Putin visit to Pakistan. Putin is not a sort of person who would come to Pakistan only to shake hands,” he said.
“Russian President believes in substantive relationships,” he added.
Panelists also discussed Pak-India relations and said rivalry between the two countries is a major obstacle to develop long-term relationships with Russia.
“Russia is keen to develop close relationship with Pakistan on economic front and political front, but still it’s a long road to travel,” Khokhar said.
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