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Pakistan-India detente on Russian agenda: envoy

October 27, 2003

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ISLAMABAD, Oct 26: Russia is concerned over the tense Pakistan-India relations and doing whatever it can to help improve ties between the two South Asian nuclear powers, says the Russian ambassador Edward S. Shevchenko.

“We are concerned because they are two friendly countries of our’s and we are interested that the two, who are very significant members of the world society, should have good, friendly neighbourly relations,” he said in an interview with this agency.

Mr Shevchenko said, during Russia’s negotiations with Pakistan and India, the situation in South Asia had always remained on the agenda and “we try to convey to each side not only our concern but also the concerns of the other countries”.

“We try to do as much possible as we can do to help them improve their relations,” he said. It is very significant for the world countries that these two nuclear powers should have good relations, he added.

The Russian envoy said President Vladimir Putin, who met President General Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the OIC Summit in Kuala Lumpur, had promised to convey Pakistan’s concerns to the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his forthcoming visit to Moscow.

On supplying of weapons to India by Russia, the ambassador referred to the old trade and commercial ties between the two countries but saw bright prospects of cooperation in the defence field between Moscow and Islamabad.

The ambassador, however, observed the two countries should enhance their trade and commercial links as the bilateral ties were improving following the “breakthrough” visit of President Musharraf to Moscow last year.

The Russian envoy attributed the “not so good “ relations between the two countries in the past to the events in Afghanistan during the last two and a half decades.

“We have agreed to cooperate with each other in different fields,” he added.

He said the two countries would have regular consultations between their foreign offices. The Russian deputy foreign minister will soon visit Pakistan for discussion on political, regional and international issues.

He said Russia would settle dues it owed to Pakistani companies which were supplying stuff like garments to the country. The problem in payments cropped up after the collapse of Soviet Union and owing to absence of proper documentation, he added.

The two agreements - on rescheduling and on payment of dues to private companies would be signed by the end of this year, he said.

In reply to a question, the Russian ambassador recalled the statement, President Putin made at the OIC Summit that terrorism could not be equated with Islam or any other religion.

“It is an equation of intolerance, extremist people can be of any religion, they can be Islamic, they can be Christian or any other religion,” said the Russian ambassador.

He appreciated Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism, saying it has become a real firm member of anti- terrorist movement which fight terrorism, Taliban and al-Qaeda extremists.

Mr Shevchenko termed the vision of “enlightened moderation” as expounded by President Musharraf as very positive to bridge the widening gap between Islam and the West.

He recalled that the proposal was not only welcomed by states represented at the OIC but also some results were drawn from it and they would now be implemented by the OIC in its future activities.

The ambassador, in reply to a question, said Russia was trying to have an observer status at the OIC as it has about 22 million Muslim population.

He said Russia was looking to be closer to the Conference but said it honoured its Charter and rules under which it accepts only those countries in its fold which have a Muslim majority.—APP