Comment by the Information and Press Department on Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s visit to the Russian Federation
On February 20, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Khawaja Asif will pay a working visit to Moscow at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
During the talks, the sides are to discuss the current state of bilateral relations and prospects for their development as well as to exchange opinions on topical issues on the international and regional agenda.
A previous meeting between the two Foreign Ministers was held on September 21, 2017, on the sidelines of the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York.
Mr Asif’s visit is taking place in the year when Russia and Pakistan are marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Today, Pakistan has become an important foreign policy partner of Russia. Both countries cooperate productively at international organisations, in particular at the UN and its agencies. Cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad is based on coinciding or similar positions on most issues facing the international community, including terrorism and religious extremism.
Opportunities for joint work expanded considerably after Pakistan joined the SCO as a fully-fledged member in June 2017.
The two countries maintain intensive political dialogue, including at the top level. In June 2017, Vladimir Putin met with then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Astana. In November 2017, Dmitry Medvedev met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who replaced Sharif in August 2017, on the sidelines of an SCO Heads of Government Council Meeting in Sochi.
The fight against terrorism is a key area of cooperation. Russia will continue its provision of practical assistance to strengthen Pakistan’s counter-terrorism potential, including military equipment deliveries. In 2017, Islamabad received four Russian Mi-35M combat transport helicopters, due to be used during national counter-terrorism operations. In 2016 and 2017, Pakistan and Russia hosted two stages of the Friendship joint tactical exercises, with the participants practicing simulated counter-terrorism operations in mountain areas.
Both countries focus on the expansion of their trade and economic ties. In 2017, their bilateral trade totalled about $500 million. The sides discuss specific business partnership projects within the Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific and Technological Cooperation. In November 2017, Moscow hosted the Commission’s regular, fifth, meeting.
Energy is a promising area of business cooperation. Construction of the North-South gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore under a 2015 intergovernmental agreement is a flagship project. On October 13, 2017, the two countries signed an intergovernmental cooperation agreement for the delivery of liquefied natural gas. The document aims to create favourable conditions for the delivery of Gazprom’s LNG shipments to regasification terminals in Pakistan. Other Russian companies are considering the possibility of fuel and energy deliveries to Pakistan. Both sides are working on a Gazprom project to build a subsea Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Russian specialists are ready to help upgrade Pakistan’s energy sector, including the modernisation of thermal power stations, built with Russian assistance.
The situation in Afghanistan arouses common concern. We are particularly concerned about the growing influence of the ISIS terrorist group in Afghanistan and its efforts to consolidate its positions in the country’s north and east. We advocate a regional approach towards resolving the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We expect participants in the Moscow format of consultations on the Afghan issue and the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group to work productively.