Russia-Pakistan: new vistas of cooperation

Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation 

Mr. Igor Morgulov

On May 1, 2018 the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan celebrate a significant date: 70 years ago diplomatic relations between our States were established on that day.
Over the past decades our bilateral ties have experienced ups and downs. Certain events in Afghanistan at the end of the 1970s-1980s have left a negative mark on them. However, even during the most difficult times our country provided economic assistance to Pakistan, promoted development of its oil and gas industry and construction of energy facilities, supplied agricultural machinery. The Karachi Steel Mills was constructed with the help of the USSR at the beginning of the 1980s. It still remains the largest industrial plant in Pakistan and is rightly a symbol of our friendship. In 1980 the Guddu thermal power plant was put into operation. Constructed with the participation of Soviet specialists it was at that time the largest thermal power station in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In December 1991 Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the Russian Federation as the legal successor of the Soviet Union. Since the early 2000s our bilateral relations have been developing dynamically in an incremental manner. Russia regards Pakistan as a promising partner, with whom we build up a long-term multisectoral cooperation including for the benefit of strengthening the stability in South Asia and beyond. It is particularly important that relations between Russia and Pakistan have their own value and are not subject to changes of the situation in the international arena.
In recent years, bilateral political dialogue has been intensified. In 2017 our leaders held two meetings – on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Astana in June and on the sidelines of the SCO Heads of State Council meeting in Sochi. The results of these contacts at the summit level proved the mutual interest of the both sides in enhancing multidimensional cooperation. Practical steps to develop such a cooperation were discussed during the working visit of Mr. Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, to Moscow this February.
Inter-parliamentary contacts are an important element of interaction between Russia and Pakistan. A landmark event was the visit of Mr. Vyacheslav V. Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation to Pakistan, where he took part in the Conference of the Speakers of parliaments of Russia, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey on security issues and counterterrorism and held negotiations with the leadership of Pakistan. 
We maintain dialogue with our Pakistani partners on a wide range of issues of regional and international agenda through relevant consultative mechanisms between the Foreign Ministries. Among these issues are: counterterrorism, strategic stability, situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia. There is an active interaction between other ministries and agencies of both countries.
The potential of our partnership was significantly advanced when Islamabad became a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in June 2017. We are glad that Pakistan is actively engaging in the practical work of the Organisation. We count upon support by Islamabad of the plans to create a universal Centre on countering new challenges and threats on the basis of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure. This will enable member states to improve coordination of professional efforts and to raise efficiency of use of relevant resources.
Our States cooperate on multilateral platforms, first of all in the UN and its specialised agencies. Moscow and Islamabad are united by the aspiration for a multi-polar world order, respect for international law, denial of attempts of interference in domestic affairs of sovereign states including those under humanitarian pretext. We value the support that Pakistan gives to such Russian priorities in the UN as international information security, transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space and combat against glorification of Nazism.
We stand for deepening the coordination of efforts of the international community on the Afghan track. Deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the rise of the terrorist and drugs threats coming from this country directly affect both Russia and Pakistan. Our countries hold the same view that Afghanistan should become a peaceful state, free of terrorism and drug-related crime. 
As the first priority task in this context we consider the earliest start of the national reconciliation process which modalities must be determined by Afghans themselves. We are confident that the principle of fair and equal partnership, which has been laid in the foundation of the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan and the SCO-Afghanistan Contact group, takes into account interests of all regional actors and perfectly meets the goal of launching the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Countering new challenges and threats, first of all international terrorism, is the priority sphere of bilateral cooperation. Here in Russia we are aware of heavy losses of Pakistan in the struggle against this global evil. From 2001 about 60 thousands of Pakistanis, including 10 thousands of military personnel and law-enforcement officers, have been killed by terrorists. We support the efforts of Islamabad aimed at eradicating hotbeds of terrorism and religious extremism in the territory of Pakistan including the Pashtun tribal areas adjacent to Afghanistan.
On our part, we will continue to give practical assistance for strengthening the antiterrorist potential of Pakistan and we are convinced that it meets interests of other regional countries. Our bilateral military and technical cooperation is aimed at increasing military capacity of the Pakistani security structures combating terrorists. In this very context we should view the contract on the supply of Russian military transport helicopters MI-35 M to Pakistan, which is now being implemented. We proceed from the assumption that these machines will be useful in conducting counter-terrorism operations.
We will continue well-proven practice of holding joint tactical exercise “Druzhba” (“Friendship”) on coordination of counter-terrorism operations in mountain area. The first round of such exercise took place in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in 2016, and the second in Karachay-Cherkessia region of Russia in 2017.
We are building up cooperation in antinarcotics sphere. Both the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and the Anti Narcotics Force of Pakistan (the ANF) have developed information sharing on issues of countering drug trafficking, prevention of illicit trafficking and use of drugs as well as relevant statistics and expertise. We have accumulated best practices in training of specialists: dozens of Pakistani ANF officers have undergone training in Russia at the expense of federal budgetary funds.
The economic component of Russian-Pakistani relations does not correspond to the existing potential. Certainly, efforts are needed to increase mutual trade, which is now around 540 million US dollars, as well as to diversify its structure and to promote investment projects in the partner country. Leaders of both our countries have set the goal to force the development of trade and economic ties, which should be raised to a new level. In this context, we have high expectations of the Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission (the IGC) on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, within the framework of which specific projects of business partnerships are being considered. The fifth meeting of the IGC took place in Moscow in November 2017 under the co-chairmanship of Mr. Denis V. Manturov, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, and Eng. Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister of Defence of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The most important now is to ensure implementation of the understanding that we have reached.
There is a tremendous scope for cooperation in energy sector, which has been established in Pakistan with the help of Soviet specialists. The flagship project – construction in accordance with the intergovernmental agreement of 2015 of the 1100 km long North-South gas pipeline with a capacity of 12,4 billion cubic meters a year which will connect the LNG terminals in Karachi and Lahore.
The interested economic operators of the two countries also study other joint projects. Among them we can name supply of the Russian liquefied natural gas to Pakistan as well as construction of the Iran-Pakistan-India sea pipeline. Russian companies are also ready to promote modernization of the Pakistani energy sector, including reconstruction of the existing thermal power plants and construction of new ones.
The continuing strengthening of interregional communications is truly pleasing. We have established steady contacts between the Republic of Tatarstan and the province of Punjab – which was in many respects promoted by a visit of Mr. Rustam N. Minnikhanov, President of Tatarstan, to Pakistan in March 2017. In October of the same year the agreement on cooperation between the governments of St.Petersburg and the province of Sind was signed. Now "the road map" on implementation of this document is being developed.
Cultural and humanitarian relations are being consistently strengthened. We welcome interest of the Pakistani youth to study in the Russian higher education institutions. According to the agreement reached at the top-level the number of state grants provided to citizens of Pakistan for training in Russia will be increased gradually. We support the activity of the Pakistani Association of graduates of the Soviet and Russian higher education institutions that unites several thousands of people. In 2017 a member of the Association Dr. Najam Ul Sahar Batt, the author of brilliant translations of the Russian classical literature in Urdu, was awarded by the Pushkin medal for his important personal contribution to promoting and advancing Russian language and culture abroad.
Russia and Pakistan have all reasons to look into the future of the partnership with optimism. Relations between our States are based on the strong base of equality, mutual trust, respect for international law, coincidence or proximity of approaches to topical issues of the global and regional agenda.

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of bilateral relations