Pak-Russia ties; Economic cooperation to lay foundation for strategic partnership

ISLAMABAD, Jan 10 (APP): Pakistani and Russian experts believe that enhanced economic cooperation between Islamabad and Moscow can lay the foundation for a robust strategic engagement between the two countries without being affected by the Indian factor.

These views were expressed at a webinar hosted by Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) on “Pakistan-Russia Strategic Relation” in which scholars and practitioners from the two countries analyzed the current state of the relationship and the prospects of forging a strategic partnership, according to a press release issued by think tank on Monday.
Ambassador (Retd) Zamir Akram noted the existence of “convergence of strategic interests” between the two countries on peace and stability in Afghanistan, countering terrorism, and regional connectivity.

He urged the government to engage Russian government and businesses in large scale projects in the country.

“The lack of progress has been mainly due to Pakistan’s own faults rather than any failings on the Russian side,” he observed while referring to Islamabad not having been able to benefit from Moscow’s interest in the privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills.

Akram argued that notwithstanding New Delhi and Moscow’s desire to “maintain, strength and sustain” their relationship even in the backdrop of growing Indo-US nexus, there still existed space for promotion of Islamabad- Moscow ties.

In this regard, he recalled that the India-Russia joint statement issued at the end of President Putin’s visit to Delhi last month, unlike communiques issued after India’s engagements with Western leaders, did not contain any negative references to Pakistan.

He was, therefore, of the view that this reflected Moscow’s intent to have a balanced approach towards Pakistan and India. “I am sure and that is a signal to both of us,” he maintained.

His views were also shared by Dr Rizwana Abbasi, who teaches at National University of Modern Languages. She said that Russia’s S-400 missile system’s sales to India should not hinder progress in Moscow -Islamabad relations.

“Pakistan can involve Russia and China along with US on a holding constructive dialogue on arms control arrangements and arms control mechanisms,” she suggested adding that Russia was a potential contender for a role for resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir dispute and checking the aggravation in the regional balance.

Russian scholar Dr. Irina Nikolaevna Serenko said nascent Pakistan-Russia defense ties can grow with time, but the two needed to build the relationship through economic cooperation particularly the conclusion of the agreement for the construction of the 1100 km gas pipeline called the Pak Stream Gas Pipeline.

She said President Putin could have visited Islamabad last month as well when he went to India if there could have been a substantive outcome like the gas pipeline deal. She said “there were no big agenda for Putin to visit Pakistan” because of slow progress on gas pipeline.

She said that Moscow’s foreign policy approach was to simultaneously develop ties with both India and Pakistan as illustrated by Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visits to both countries last year.

Dr. Vladimir Sotnikov of Russian International Affairs Council said economic cooperation formed the most prospective area for developing convergences between Pakistan and Russia.

“I think that the very attractive area of enhancing cooperation between Russian Federation and Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the economic area because we have a lot to share. First of all enhance the trade relations and supply from Russia heavy machinery,” he said adding that subsequently the two can move towards civilian nuclear cooperation.

Executive Director SVI Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that despite significant progress in diplomatic ties, the economic relations still had to be improved.

He hoped that economic ties would soon reach the desirable level because of “warm political and diplomatic relations”.