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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to intensify bilateral military cooperation during meetings between the top military and security leadership of the two countries.

The resolve to expand existing bilateral military cooperation was expressed when Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa opened his visit to Moscow with a meeting with Commander Russian Federation Ground Forces Col Gen Oleg Salyukov soon after National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua-led delegation discussed key security issues with Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev.

It was Gen Bajwa’s first visit to Russia. His predecessor Gen Raheel Sharif had earlier visited Russia in 2015. The military contacts between the two countries that started in 2007 have strengthened military cooperation as seen from the joint drills of ground troops and the navies.

In his meeting with the COAS, Russian Ground Forces Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleg Salyukov said his country was interested in expanding the existing military cooperation with Pakistan. Gen Bajwa, too, expressed Pakistan’s desire to enhance bilateral military engagements with Russia.

The two countries had in February agreed to set up a military cooperation commission for promoting military cooperation. Both sides had signed a defence cooperation agreement in November 2014 and later inked military-technical cooperation accord, which allows arms trade between the two countries and cooperation in weapon development, in October 2015.

The latest developments suggest that the engagement is all set to intensify. According to a Russian source, an intense programme has been developed for this year.

The rapprochement between the erstwhile cold war adversaries was driven by Russian concerns about instability in Afghanistan. Moscow believes the presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan failed to restore stability in the country.

Gen Bajwa praised Russia’s “positive role” in resolving “complex situations in the region”. The army chief, according to ISPR, told the Russian Ground Forces commander that Pakistan would continue to play its part to “keep conflicts away from the region and seek approaches which bring regional convergences into play rather than divergences”.

The army chief’s trip was preceded by the visit of National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua to Russia. His meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev resulted in an understanding that the security cooperation between the two countries needed a boost.

The press service of the Russian Security Council reported that in their meeting, “issues of bilateral military cooperation in information security and countering international terrorism were studied.”

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2018