Pak, Russia agree to further promote bilateral cooperation as Lavrov meets top leadership

Sajjad Hussain
·4-min read

Islamabad, Apr 7 (PTI) Pakistan and Russia on Wednesday agreed to further promote bilateral cooperation in the field of economy, trade, counter-terrorism and defence, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held extensive talks with the country's top leadership, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and powerful Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Lavrov, the first Russian foreign minister to visit Pakistan in nearly a decade, held delegation-level talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi and they reviewed the bilateral relationship as well as the situation in war-torn Afghanistan.

'We reviewed our cooperation in the field of security including counter-terrorism and defence,' Qureshi said after the meeting. 'We are confident that this visit will give further momentum to our deepening friendship and we remain committed to expanding our relations in diverse areas through further high-level contacts.' Addressing a joint press conference, Lavrov said Russia was ready to further build counter-terrorism potential through provision of 'special' military equipment.

'We stand ready to strengthen the anti-terrorist potential of Pakistan, including by supplying Pakistan with special military equipment,' he said, without giving the details of the Russian equipment.

'This is in the interest of all states of the region,' Lavrov said, adding that both the sides have agreed to further conduct military exercises and drills.

Russia and Pakistan have been holding annually the joint exercise - DRUZHBA – since 2016. In October 2016, they held their first-ever joint military exercise in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s defence ties with Russia have moved past the bitter Cold War hostilities in recent years and the chill in the relations between Pakistan and the US has further pushed the country towards Russia and China.

On his part, Qureshi said Pakistan was keen to build a strong multifaceted relationship with Russia.

'There is a new approach and mindset in Pakistan for a relationship with Russia. We feel that not just we have geographic proximity but Russia is a factor of stability in the region and the world at large,” he said, adding that Pakistan wants to build a relationship of trust with Russia.

Later, Lavrov called on Prime Minister Khan and Army chief Gen Bajwa separately and discussed matters of mutual interest, including enhanced defence ties, regional security, and the Afghan peace process.

Prime Minister Khan reiterated the importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with Russia as 'a key foreign policy priority' and expressed satisfaction at the steady growth in bilateral ties, including deepening cooperation in trade, energy, security and defence, according to the Prime Minister’s Office here.

Khan 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,' Khan said.

Khan also 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.

With reference to the situation in Kashmir, Prime Minister Khan 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, his office said.

Lavrov, who arrived here from India on Tuesday on a two-day official visit, later met Gen Bajwa on the last day of his two-day visit at the headquarters of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi, according to a statement by the Army.

During the meeting, General Bajwa said that Pakistan has no hostility towards any country and will work for regional cooperation.

'We have no hostile designs towards any country and will keep on working towards a cooperative regional framework based on sovereign equality and mutual progress,' Bajwa said.

He said Pakistan values its relationship with Russia and reciprocates the desire for enhanced bilateral military cooperation, the statement said.

General Bajwa also offered support for efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan.

'Pakistan welcomes all initiatives which can bring peace and stability in Afghanistan as the whole region will benefit from it,' he said.

Lavrov acknowledged Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terrorism and contributions to regional peace and stability, especially Pakistan’s sincere efforts in the Afghan peace process, the statement said.

He said Pakistan-Russia relations were on a positive trajectory and will continue to develop in multiple domains.

Expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, Lavrov told reporters that Pakistan and Russia have agreed to further facilitate the parties to reach an agreement to put an end to civil war through an inclusive political dialogue.

'We have agreed to further contribute to creating conditions to ensure that the conflicting sides achieve constructive solutions, which will allow them to end the civil war in Afghanistan through the agreements on forming inclusive power structures,' Lavrov said.

Lavrov also termed the relationship between the two countries mutually beneficial and constructive. “We have provided 50,000 doses of anti-Covid vaccine to Pakistan and intend to provide 150,000 more,” he said. PTI SH ZH AKJ ZH ZH