Pakistan, Russia Decide to Scale Up Ties to ‘Highest Level’

DESPARDES — On the sidelines of SCO Summit in Krygystan last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan met Russian President Vladimir Putin and had lunch with him — their tete-e-tete was a first after Putin-Musharraf meet two decades back.

Both countries have a defense pact, and working closely with each other (along with others) on regional peace, counter-terrorism and trade, investment.

Report says Mr Putin pointed out to Mr. Khan that the country’s two previous governments were not as keen to scale up bilateral ties with Russia. His last interaction with a Pakistani top leader was with former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, he added.

Earlier this year, Islamabad attempted to convince Russia for a bilateral meeting between Putin and PM Khan on the sidelines of Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing. It did not materialize.

“There is a keenness in Russia to develop ties with Pakistan,” said an analyst. And the feeling is mutual, an observer added, while pointing out that both sides (cold war foes) want to move forward in the space created by an emerging multipolar world.

The Crimean sanctions slapped by US on Russia has provided Putin’s team opportunities to make best out of the crisis.

In March, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua met with Russian envoy Alexey Dedov and both expressed optimism about the future of Pak-Russia bilateral relationship.

Janjua said Pakistan and Russia are having an “emerging partnership” which had “tremendous scope”. She said the growth in relations was underpinned by progressive institutional relations, summit-level exchanges, military ties, and strategic cooperation for peace in Afghanistan.

Dedov said Pakistan’s membership of SCO advanced the potential of cooperation between the two countries.

The two leaders having met on the sidelines of SCO Summit last week, analysts say, both sides seem ready to scale up their bilateral ties to the highest level– Pakistan already enjoys “all weather” relationship with China with whom Russia has good chemistry on international and regional level.

The observers point out to PM Khan’s interview with Russian news agency Sputnik last week: ” “We have developed cooperation with Russia between our defense forces. I think our defense personnel have already met. And so, yes, we hope to deepen our contacts.”

On import of Russian weapons, Khan said: “First, we hope that our tension with India decreases, so we do not have to buy arms because we want to spend money on human development”.

“But, yes, we are looking for arms from Russia, and I know our military is already in touch with the Russian military,” Khan commented.

The Russian military has reportedly announced that its troops will hold military exercises with Pakistani forces later this year.

Both Russia and China have held several counter-terrorism drills over the years.

Russia, like China, also seeks investment in Pakistan– gas sector to name one. Energy-strapped Pakistan is receptive, including enhancing trade and military ties.