ISLAMABAD: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov is arriving here on Wednesday for bilateral consultations.
He will be in Islamabad for two days (Oct 3-4) on the invitation of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
The announcement of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit follows cancellation of President Vladimir Putin’s trip to Islamabad scheduled for Oct 2-3 and coincides with Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s visit to Moscow.
Dispelling a perception that Mr Lavrov’s visit had been planned to deal with the fallout of the cancellation of Mr Putin’s visit, Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said Ms Khar had extended the invitation during her visit to Moscow in February this year.
But the question remains that had Mr Putin’s visit taken place as scheduled would Mr Lavrov have stayed back for another two days because he would then have been here on Oct 2 accompanying his president.
Some diplomatic observers believe that Russian FM’s visit may have been planned after Mr Putin cancelled his scheduled trip to negate the impression that the reset in Pakistan-Russia ties was in doldrums.
“The forthcoming visit of Foreign Minister Lavrov would provide an opportunity to further expand and intensify the existing mutually beneficial bilateral ties,” the spokesman said.
“The two countries also share the common objective of peace and stability in the broader region and attach importance to regional connectivity both in terms of trade and energy cooperation,” Mr Khan said.
Besides holding bilateral consultations, Mr Lavrov is also scheduled to call on President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Russian President’s pointman for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, while explaining Mr Putin’s decision on not visiting Pakistan, had said: “Russian-Pakistani relations have been on the rise in recent years but progress has been mostly at political and emotional levels, while economic ties have lagged behind.”
Signing of MoUs The announcement of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit coincided with the signing by Pakistan and Russia of three memoranda of understanding relating to expansion of Pakistan Steel Mills and cooperation in railways and water and power sector projects.
The first memorandum is about modernisation, reconstruction and expansion of production capacity of the Pakistan Steel.
Russia’s Tyazhpromexport company, which had helped Pakistan establish the plant, will carry out technical audit. The financial and technical terms of the project will be finalised during visit to Moscow by a Pakistani delegation.
Under the MoU on railways, Russia will explore opportunities of cooperation with Pakistan Railways, particularly a joint venture for manufacturing passenger carriages. Russia will also participate in a tender to be floated for the supply of carriages.
The third MoU concerns Russian investment in energy sector. The Russian Federation will cooperate in converting Jamshoro and Muzaffarabad thermal power plants from furnace oil into coal.
The Russian delegation led by Dr Alexander Rybas, Director General of Prominvest State Corporation, called on Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and discussed measures to bolster economic relations between the two countries.
Dr Rybas informed Mr Ashraf that another Russian team would visit Pakistan from Oct 15 to discuss various models of finance for the Jamshoro power project.
The prime minister expressed the hope that cooperation in the energy sector would help Pakistan in overcoming the power crisis.
He stressed the need for streamlining the procedure for issuing visa to Pakistani businessmen in order to enhance business contacts.
Dr Rybas said that besides energy, transportation and steel sectors, the State Corporation of Russian Technologies was also interested in exploring more investment opportunities in Pakistan.