ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua on Wednesday proposed a seven-point roadmap for strengthening Pakistan-Russia ties and observed that Moscow’s position on latest Pak-India military standoff showed that the complexion of the relationship had already changed.
“It is an emergent partnership with tremendous scope,” the foreign secretary said and suggested a seven-point roadmap through which the two countries could forge a stronger relationship.
She was speaking at the Strategic Vision Institute’s (SVI) International Conference on Pakistan-Russia Strategic Relations: Prospects for Cooperation.
The proposed blueprint for the relationship includes resolution of the pending issue of about $200 million of Russian money held by Pakistani banks due to a financial dispute; signing of a free trade agreement to boost bilateral trade; deepening of strategic cooperation and understanding; augmenting of defence relations; Russian participation in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); strengthening of people to people relations; and development of a regional architecture for peace and development in collaboration with likeminded countries.
Ms Janjua said the relationship was currently underpinned by a strong framework of 11 bilateral processes for structured dialogue on various issues of concern to the two countries; frequent summit-level interactions; growing military ties; strategic cooperation for Afghan peace; and collaboration in the fight against drug trafficking.
“Shedding baggage of cold war history, Pakistan and Russia have been brought into closer orbit of improved communication, better understanding and strategic coordination,” she said and pointed out that in a “sign of changed configuration of our relations… Russia adopted a more nuanced policy for South Asia. During recent stand-off with India, Russia offered to mediate, which was welcomed by Pakistan.”
“Russia played its role in de-escalation. We appreciated the positive role [played by Moscow] and its balanced approach for peace and stability in the region,” she further said.
Both Secretary Janjua and Russian Ambassador Alexey Dedov mentioned the coming high-level engagement between the two countries in Kyrgyzstan in June on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.
Mr Dedov said that Pakistan’s membership of the SCO had advanced the potential for cooperation between the two countries.
Mentioning the institutional processes between the two countries, he said the high-level political dialogue was contributing to the growth of ties, whereas economic cooperation was being driven by the Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. A meeting of the commission is planned for the last quarter of this year, he said.
The envoy said that energy was the mainstay of Russia’s economic cooperation with Pakistan and gave an overview of the developments related to the North-South Gas Pipeline.
He said that Russia had after the signing of inter-governmental agreement in 2015 completed its internal procedures and was waiting for Pakistani partners to complete similar measures on their side. “We are now at the stage of agreement from the implementing agency,” he said.
Mr Dedov said that unsettled issue of mutual financial obligations and lack of relations between corresponding banks was impeding economic cooperation.
President of the Strategic Vision Institute Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema in his presentation noted the progress made by Pakistan and Russia in their diplomatic and political relations; cooperation for peace in Afghanistan; military ties and the strategic stability dialogue.
Dr Cheema said the two countries had been negotiating military hardware sale for a few years, but had made little headway so far.
He said that close relations between Moscow and Delhi, $5 billion S-400 missile system deal and 10-year lease agreement for a new Russian SSN (nuclear-powered general-purpose attack submarine) were worrisome for Pakistan.
Dr Cheema said that although there was a strong desire among leaders of both countries to take the ties forward, it remained to be seen how much room for progress was actually available for the same.
Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2019