ISLAMABAD, May 30: Russia joined the Chinese on Wednesday in extending political support to Pakistan at a time when it appears to have been isolated by its western friends.

Ambassador Zamir Kabulov, Russian President’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan, in his meeting with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani spoke about the “enormous commonalities” between Moscow and Islamabad on regional issues.

Prime Minister Gilani reciprocated by saying that Pakistan considered Russia a source of regional and global peace and stability.

Because of relations with the US remaining strained, Pakistan has used back-to-back visits by the Chinese foreign minister and Russian special envoy for signalling that the two important global players stand with it and have convergence of views on regional issues.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who had a detailed discussion with his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar here on Tuesday, called on Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the General Headquarters on Wednesday and exchanged views on matters of mutual interest.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was earlier this month inaugurated for a third time as president, is expected to visit Pakistan soon. He will also meet President Asif Zardari on the sidelines of the SCO summit in China next week.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have been on a downward trajectory since Mr Putin’s election. The Russian president snubbed a US invitation to attend the G-8 summit and accused America of meddling in Russia’s internal affairs. He is also expected to stay away from the opening ceremony of London Olympics in July.

However, a diplomatic source said Pakistan and Russia had turned a new phase in their relations and the leaders of both countries were keen to expand the ties.

A foreign ministry official said Pakistan believed that Russia had legitimate interest in stability and prosperity of the region and the two countries had been closely coordinating their positions on Afghanistan.

Pakistan, he said, wanted a regional approach to resolving the Afghan imbroglio and both China and Russia had an important role to play.

Ambassador Kabulov, in an interview before travelling to Pakistan, appeared sceptical about Afghan security forces being able to maintain security in the country after the transition is completed in next summer.

“We are attentively watching the 50 per cent of the territory which was handed over to the Afghan security forces. It’s impossible to say that law and order has been restored because the situation is very tense there. Everything might collapse at any time but this does not happen due to the presence of the strong foreign contingent in Afghanistan. Moreover, there is air force cover. In addition, Americans make no secret that their special task force will remain in Afghanistan to support the Afghan forces to suppress pockets of militant resistance. But all this is not clear, and confused. Generally speaking, the war has been lost,” Mr Kabulov said.

At his meeting with Mr Kabulov, Mr Gilani recalled Pakistan’s efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He recalled that on President Hamid Karzai’s request, he had issued a public appeal on Feb 24 to all militant groups to negotiate with the Afghan government.

Meanwhile, Russia is supportive of Pakistan becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Russia has also expressed interest in Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and both sides have had a few “very good meetings on the project”, discussing “specific proposals”.

Russia’s interest in trans-regional energy projects such as CASA-1000 (Central Asia-South Asia electricity transmission) and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline has been welcomed by Pakistan.



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