ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia on Tuesday emphasised the need for closely coordinating their positions on the developments in Afghanistan.
The two sides underscored this during a conversation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The second call from President Putin to Mr Khan within three weeks came in the backdrop of the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Dushanbe on Friday (Sept 17). Mr Khan would participate in the summit, while Mr Putin is likely to miss the event because he has decided to isolate himself after Covid-19 cases were detected in his inner circle.
Afghanistan was the focus of the conversation between the two leaders, who also discussed the SCO summit and state of bilateral relations.
“The prime minister stressed that close coordination and consultations between Pakistan and Russia on the evolving situation in Afghanistan were of crucial importance,” the Prime Minister Office (PMO) said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin Press Service, according to the Russian newswire TASS, said: “The sides exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan and expressed interest in coordinating their countries’ approaches to its stabilisation.”
Pakistan and Russia have in the past engaged bilaterally over Afghanistan to discuss ways of mitigating threats from instability in Afghanistan, especially the challenges posed by the militant Islamic State group.
Russia, China, and Pakistan set up a trilateral format in 2016 for their three-way discussion on Afghanistan and countering terrorism. Later in 2017, Moscow-format peace talks on Afghanistan were inaugurated, which were more broad-based and involved Afghanistan’s other neighbours and some of the regional players as well.
Moscow and Islamabad were, moreover, together in the extended troika on Afghanistan that included Beijing and Washington. The two sides have also been interacting with each other on Afghanistan at SCO.
Mr Khan, in his conversation with Mr Putin, said that peace and stability in Afghanistan were crucial for regional security and prosperity.
He also emphasised the urgent need for provision of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and the imperative of averting an economic crisis, the PMO said.
The prime minister, furthermore, cautioned the world against isolating Taliban regime, saying the people of Afghanistan “should not be abandoned at this crucial juncture”.
In the bilateral context, the PMO said, Mr Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to further upgrade the overall relationship. He said strengthening trade and investments and energy cooperation were the cornerstones of Pakistan’s engagement with Russia.
He reiterated his government’s resolve for early realisation of the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project — the 1,100km pipeline to be laid in collaboration with Russia. The pipeline would enhance Pakistan’s capacity to transport imported gas from LNG terminals in Karachi to Punjab.
The two sides had in July this year signed ‘Heads of Terms’ agreement for the project besides finalising its shareholding and corporate structure. The project has suffered delays because of various reasons since 2015.
The two leaders again invited each other for a visit to their countries.
Officials say some high-level visits from Pakistan to Russia are likely to take place in the near future. The dates for the trips are being worked out.
Changing geo-political environment, fears about fallout of instability in Afghanistan, and Russian search for new energy markets have played an important role in bringing the two countries closer after over three decades of frosty ties.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021