PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Russia and the signing of a joint statement on Pakistan and Russia's common approach to terrorism and drug trafficking serve to focus attention on the need for Islamabad to deepen its ties with Moscow. A 'former' superpower it may be, Russia remains Eurasia's most important country. With its vast territorial expanse, huge energy resources and a level of technology that enabled it to put the first man in space, Russia deserves greater attention from Pakistan at a time when the need for Islamabad to broaden its economic and political ties has never been greater as we head towards a post-Cold War, multipolar world. In the past, Russia often felt it was Pakistan which had provoked it by joining American-led military pacts, and the Russians have not forgotten that the U-2 spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union had taken off from the US base in Badaber. That Pakistan had some other reasons for throwing in its lot with America cut no ice with the communist leadership. The situation deteriorated when Russia invaded Afghanistan on Christmas Eve, 1979, and Pakistan became a base for US-funded 'jihad' against the Soviet occupation.

In the post-Cold War world, with Russia having shed its superpower baggage, Pakistan has to redefine its relationship with the country and forge closer ties for their mutual benefit. The two countries may not be neighbours, but they have common stakes, especially in the fight against terrorism. While Pakistan has suffered more than any other country at the hands of terrorists, Russia has its own terrorism concerns in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The joint statement issued in Moscow pledges cooperation in the fight against both terrorism and drug trafficking, besides hinting at Russian technical assistance for many projects in Pakistan, especially the expansion of the Soviet-built Pakistan Steel in Karachi. Let us hope the president's visit and the cooperative endeavours pledged in the joint statement serve to bring the two countries politically and economically closer.

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