ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia signed a defence cooperation agreement on Thursday.
Signed by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu, the agreement was hailed by Pakistan’s defence ministry as “a milestone” in defence ties between the two countries.
Mr Shoigu is in Islamabad on the first visit by Russian defence minister to Pakistan since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He is accompanied by a 41-member delegation.
The agreement provides for exchange of information on politico-military issues; cooperation for promoting international security; intensification of counter-terrorism and arms control activities; strengthening collaboration in various military fields, including education, medicine, history, topography, hydrography and culture; and sharing experiences in peacekeeping operations.
The two sides discussed joint efforts for fighting international terrorism and drug trafficking.
The hype surrounding the defence agreement, notwithstanding, there were no specific agreements on procurement or joint ventures. A recent statement by Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Dedov that Moscow had “politically approved” a deal for MI-35 helicopter had raised hopes of a major agreement during the defence minister’s visit.
“During the meeting, we agreed that bilateral military cooperation should have a great practical focus and contribute to increasing combat efficiency of our armed forces,” Mr Shoigu was quoted by ITAR-TASS as having said.
“During the meeting, we agreed that bilateral military cooperation should have a great practical focus and contribute to increasing combat efficiency of our armed forces,” the Russian defence minister said, adding that implementation of the agreement would bolster other aspects of bilateral cooperation.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said in a statement that “both sides will translate this relationship in tangible terms and further strengthen military to military relations”.
Later, Mr Shoigu called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“Pakistan is keen to enhance its multi-dimensional relations with Moscow, including defence,” Mr Sharif told the Russian minister.
The prime minister appreciated Russia’s support for Pakistan’s candidature for full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). He said Pakistan was ready to enhance cooperation with other countries of the region, through SCO for countering dual challenges of terrorism and drug trafficking.
In reply to a question at a briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said Pakistan looked at Russia as an important global player with a role in this region’s peace and stability.
“We have been forging very good cooperation. Our bilateral relations are on an upward trajectory and it’s not just defence, we are looking at cooperation across the board.”
She said Islamabad wanted greater Russian participation in economic development projects and investment in Pakistan. “There are various initiatives in the works.”
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2014