Pakistan-Russia Relations Have Taken a News Turn

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Naeem Kandwal
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived on Tuesday for a two-day visit in Islamabad. He was received by his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. This visit is historically significant. The Soviet Union and Pakistan first established the diplomatic and bilateral relations on 1 May 1948. History of Pak-Russia relations is a tale of misperceptions. Russia and Pakistan have been trying to come closer to each other. There have been many ups and downs in the history of their relations. This is the first visit by a Russian foreign minister to Pakistan since 2012. This was his two-day official visit. Russian FM has planted a sapling in the garden of the foreign office. Let’s take a look at the history of Pakistan-Russian relations. Russian Federation and Pakistan had first established diplomatic and bilateral relations on May 1, 1948. Soviet leadership sent a congratulatory message to the then Pakistani Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. This was an era when the Cold War between Moscow and Washington DC was taking birth. In April 1949, Russians had invited Liaquat Ali Khan to Moscow, but he (Liaquat Ali Khan ) preferred to visit the US instead in May 1950. The Pakistani government preffered the United States to the Soviet Union. This was a turning point in Pakistan’s foreign policy. During the 1954-58 era  the Pak-Soviet relations remained quite tense. In 1954, Pakistan became member of South East Asia Treaty Organisation (Seato). In 1955 Pakistan became the member of the Central Treaty Organisation (Cento). The Soviet Union reacted negatively to both measures. During the 1965 and 1971 wars, the Soviet Union sympathized with India. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto endeavoured to improve his country’s relationship with Soviet Union. He succeeded in convincing Moscow to establish a billion-dollar steel mill at Karachi in 1972. Bhutto was also the first Pakistani Prime Minister to tour the USSR. In 2007, Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov, visited Pakistan. Pakistan-Russia relations have taken a news turn. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday arrived at foreign office in Islamabad. “Pakistan and Russia share a multi-faceted relationship and we welcome FM Lavrov’s visit in line with our mutual commitment to further strengthen our bilateral ties, deepening our growing bonds of cooperation & collaboration,” Qureshi said in a tweet. Qureshi said that Sergey Lavrov’s visit holds crucial importance for mutual ties and the Afghan peace process. According to Dunya news, “ Prime Minister Imran Khan met with a Russian delegation led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. A multitude of important issues were discussed in the meeting including improving bilateral relations as well as a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. The Prime Minister Imran Khan fondly recalled his interaction with President Vladimir Putin during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Bishkek in June 2019, where he had underscored his desire to take the bilateral relationship to a new level. Prime Minister Imran Khan reaffirmed Pakistan’s resolve to expeditiously conclude the requisite legal process for the “Pakistan Stream” (North-South) Gas Pipeline project and commence the work as early as possible. He reiterated the importance Pakistan attached to its relations with Russia as a key foreign policy priority. The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction at the steady growth in bilateral ties, including deepening cooperation in trade, energy, security and defence. Enhanced bilateral cooperation in the fields of energy, industrial modernization, railways and aviation was discussed. It was agreed that the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC), due to meet in Moscow later this year, would closely pursue specific proposals and projects in that context. Views were also exchanged on the health and economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister congratulated Russia on its development of Sputnik-V Vaccine and underscored Pakistan’s procurement plans in that regard. Prime Minister stressed the importance of a negotiated political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan appreciated Russia’s efforts in promoting the Afghan peace process including through the hosting of the recent meeting of Extended Troika in Moscow. With reference to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the Prime Minister shared Pakistan’s perspective on issues of peace and security in South Asia, including the need for peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Views were also exchanged on the situation in West Asia, the Gulf, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region. The Prime Minister reiterated his invitation to President    Putin to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience”. Pakistan and Russia enjoy friendly and cooperative relations based on mutual respect, trust and understanding. Bilateral cooperation is growing across a wide range of areas of common interest including security and defence, counter-terrorism and the Afghan peace process. Pakistan has played an important role in the region. Pakistan’s role in Global politics is very important. Pakistan has played a pivotal role in promoting peace, security and stability in the region and beyond. Changes are taking place in global politics. This is the century of Asia. Balance of power is shifting from west to east. 21st Century is truly the Asian Century. Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan will be useful for the stability of the region.