Russian defence minister due today

November 20, 2014

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It will be the first ever visit of Russia's  defence minister to Pakistan in recent past.—AFP/File
It will be the first ever visit of Russia's defence minister to Pakistan in recent past.—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu will visit Islamabad on Thursday for talks with Pakistani leadership on strengthening defence cooperation and sale of military equipment.

This will be the first visit to Pakistan by a Russian defence minister in recent past.

The minister, according to a source, would stay in Islamabad for a few hours before returning to Moscow. Neither side has publicly announced the visit.

A defence ministry official said the two sides would discuss full spectrum of defence collaboration during Mr Shoigu’s visit.

Mr Shoigu had earlier in the week visited China where he said that defence ministries of Russia and China were seeking to form a regional collective security system in the Asia-Pacific due to concerns that the US was attempting to strengthen its military and political clout in the region.

Russia and Pakistan have lately been working on enhancing defence cooperation and are believed to have already covered a lot of ground. Exchange of visits by military commanders in recent years is an indication of progress achieved in this regard.

India’s decision to enter into tighter embrace with the US had prompted Russia to rethink its defence relationship with Pakistan.

Also read: Pakistan, Russia to enhance cooperation

The visit also comes against the backdrop of reports that Moscow had given go-ahead for sale of MI-35 helicopters to Pakistan, which is interested in purchasing up to 20 helicopters.

Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Dedov had in a radio interview said that the helicopter deal had been “politically approved” and further negotiations on details of the political-commercial contract were in progress.

Pakistan’s former ambassador to Russia Khalid Khattak said the Russian defence minister’s upcoming visit reflected improvement in ties between the two countries. “We are entering a phase of defence collaboration in procurement and production. It’s important,” he added.

But a defence source said the Russian side was unlikely to make any major announcement during Mr Shoigu’s trip because of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Delhi next month. “They would not like to disturb Putin’s visit,” he added.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2014