Shah Mahmood Qureshi with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Pakistan
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Islamabad on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Pakistan and Russia agreed to develop cooperation in economic, energy and defence fields during the visit of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. The two-day (April 6-7) visit to Pakistan is the first by a Russian foreign minister in nearly a decade and was described as the beginning of a “new chapter” in Pakistan-Russia relations.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Islamabad, the Russian foreign minister expressed readiness to expand collaboration with Pakistan especially in defence, security and energy sectors. Russia is ready to offer Pakistan “special military equipment” and to expand cooperation in the domain of counter-terrorism, Lavrov said.

Pakistan looks forward to build “multi-dimensional relations with Russia” as it can contribute to regional stability and global security, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said after delegation-level talks. The two sides also discussed the Asia Pacific development and the Middle East situation particularly solution of Palestine issue.

PM Imran Khan meets Russian FM

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in his meeting with the Russian FM Sergey Lavrov stressed upon the “importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with Russia as a key foreign policy priority”. Discussing the growing bilateral cooperation in trade, energy and security, PM Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s resolve to commence “Pakistan Stream” (North-South gas pipeline) project as early as possible. The multi-billion dollar 1,100-km gas pipeline will link the port city of Karachi to Lahore. Khan also invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Pakistan soon.

Defence ties

Islamabad and Moscow agreed to strengthen military ties with regular joint exercises and counter-terrorism training. In an interview to a Pakistani newspaper, Lavrov said Russia and Pakistan shared a “concurrence or similarity of approaches” to regional and international issues. Russian foreign minister also held a meeting with Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss enhanced defence and security collaboration, regional security and particularly the Afghan peace process. “Pakistan values its relations with Russia and reciprocates the desire for enhanced bilateral military cooperation,” Gen Bajwa said. The Russian official acknowledged Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terrorism and contributions to regional peace and stability, especially in Afghanistan.

Afghan peace process

The two sides reaffirmed their support to Afghanistan peace process and to facilitate intra-Afghan talks to “put an end to civil war based on inclusive dialogue.” Pakistan appreciated Russia’s efforts in promoting the Afghan peace process within the framework of Moscow format comprising representatives of Russia, China, US and Pakistan. “Pakistan welcomes all initiatives which can bring peace and stability in Afghanistan as the whole region will benefit from it” Pakistan’s army chief said.

Trade ties

Bilateral trade between Russia and Pakistan witnessed a 46 per cent increase hitting an all-time high of $790 million, mainly driven by the export of Russian wheat to Islamabad. Realising the trade potential, the officials agreed to diversify and increase bilateral ties in the fields of energy, industrial modernisation, railways and aviation. Progress on economic cooperation would be followed in the upcoming intergovernmental commission meeting in Moscow.

Vaccine cooperation

On cooperation to fight coronavirus, Lavrov said Russia had already provided 50,000 doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V to Pakistan and would offer a further 150,000 doses soon. Sputnik V vaccine is currently being administered privately in Pakistan. The two countries also discussed the possibility of local production of the Sputnik V vaccine in Pakistan to help meet the growing vaccination demand in the country of 220 million.