Russia and Pakistan: Prospects of Interaction

Commemorating the 65th anniversary of bilateral relations.
By Mr. Igor Morgulov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation

Igor Morgulov

Diplomatic relations between our countries were established on May 1, 1948 following the agreement reached in New York by then Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the USSR Andrei A. Gromyko and Foreign Minister of Pakistan Zafrullah Khan. Shortly the Embassies of the USSR and Pakistan opened in Karachi and Moscow.

There were ups and downs in relations between the USSR and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan because of specifics of international politics of the “Cold War” period. The Soviet-Pakistan cooperation could not evade the negative effects of tumultuous and complex developments in Afghanistan in which both the countries happened to be involved in.

Nevertheless, even during the most unfavourable periods Moscow continued to search out opportunities for expansion of its dialogue with Islamabad and render economic assistance to Pakistan. The Soviet Union contributed to the development of Pakistan’s oil and gas industries, construction of power stations, supplied agricultural machinery. It was with the USSR assistance that Pakistan Steel Mills were constructed in Karachi in the early 1980s, still remaining the largest industrial enterprise in the country and the flagship of our friendship. In 1980 Guddu Thermal Power Station built with the participation of Soviet specialists was put into operation and became the biggest thermal power plant in Pakistan then.

Today Islamabad is an important partner of Russia with whom we develop mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields. The significance of Pakistan is determined by its role in regional politics, its influence in the Muslim world and its geostrategic position in close vicinity of the CIS borders. Our countries face similar challenges and threats to national security.

In recent years we have been witnessing steadfast progress in our bilateral relations. Leaders of Russia and Pakistan meet regularly to exchange views on key issues of regional and bilateral agenda. The official visit of President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari to Russia in May 2011 was another milestone in the development of our ties. The visit to Moscow of Foreign Minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar in February 2012 and the return visit of Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov to Islamabad in October later in the year gave an added impetus to our mutually beneficial partnership.

Russia and Pakistan actively interact in multilateral organizations. Our countries have close positions on a wide range of international problems, including the issues of peaceful settlement of conflicts, establishment of the multipolar world order, strengthening of the UN’s central role, the supremacy of international law in interstate relations. With Pakistan’s election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2012–2013 opportunities for mutual cooperation on the international arena further expanded.

Interaction with Pakistan in the frameworks of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an authoritative international association evolving into an important element of the regional security architecture and cooperation, is of particular importance. We support the aspiration of Islamabad, which now has an observer status, to join the SCO as a full-fledged member.

Russia stands for close coordination of our countries’ efforts in Afghanistan settlement. Instability in Afghanistan, especially in the light of expected withdrawal of the NATO/ISAF main contingent in 2014, concerns both our countries. Naturally, we are interested in peaceful, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan free from terrorism and drug-related crime. Russia believes that it is for the Afghans themselves to determine the pace and direction of the settlement in the country including the national reconciliation process. Pakistan shares such approach.

Pakistan is one of the states which suffered most from terrorism. In the last ten years more than 35 thousand civilians were killed in the inhuman acts of terror and six thousand Pakistani soldiers and officers sacrificed their lives while purging their country of extremists whose barbaric actions have nothing to do with the Islamic values and cannot be justified. Russia has supported and will support counterterrorism efforts of the Pakistani partners in future.

One of our priority tasks is further development of cooperation with Pakistan in combating illicit drug trafficking. Since 2006 our country has been actively taking part in the Russia-NATO Council’s programme on training personnel of concerned agencies of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asian states. During this period dozens of Pakistanis received training in Russia. Anti-narcotics cooperation has also been developing bilaterally on the basis of the Agreement signed between the Federal Service of the Russian Federation for Narcotics Control and the Ministry of Narcotics Control of Pakistan in 2010.

Unfortunately, the economic dimension of Russian-Pakistani cooperation does not correspond to its potential. We cannot be satisfied either with the existing bilateral trade volume of USD 540 million or with its structure. The low level of direct business ties and insufficient knowledge of Russia’s and Pakistan’s business communities about each other’s capabilities remain to be our weak points. The task for accelerated development of Russian-Pakistani trade and economic ties to take them to a qualitatively new level is set at the highest level. In this regard great expectations are pinned on the Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, whose second session was held in Islamabad in the fall of 2012. It identified priority avenues of our business and investment cooperation. They include the fuel and energy complex, metallurgy and mechanical engineering.

Russian business quarters are ready to assist in the implementation of various national power projects in Pakistan, including the reconstruction of Multan-2 and Guddu thermal power stations built with the contribution of Soviet specialists, as well as in construction of new hydroelectric and thermal power plants of small and medium production capacity. Our companies could participate in exploring and developing offshore oil and gas fields in Pakistan, building underground gas storage facilities, training specialists for the oil and gas sector of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Metallurgy is another promising sphere of the Russian-Pakistani partnership. Early this year the intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in modernization, reconstruction and expansion of production capacity of Pakistan Steel Mills in Karachi was signed.

The CASA-1000 project aimed at creating a system to transfer electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan promises to be of benefit to all parties. Russia is ready to join it and co-invest. Our companies could also participate in the Tajikistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India gas pipeline construction.

It is proper to mark out such an important element of Russian-Pakistani interaction as parliamentary contacts which were given strong impetus during the visit of the delegation of the Federation Council led by Valentina I. Matvienko. The return visit of Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari is anticipated in Russia. It is obvious that the development of parliamentary dimension of our interaction makes a significant contribution to ensuring a favourable climate in bilateral relations.

We intend to promote humanitarian, cultural and scientific ties with Pakistan. A Memorandum of Understanding on scientific and technical cooperation and a new three-year Programme of cultural and scientific exchanges, which are being worked out through concerned agencies, will afford a robust legal basis for further development of interaction in this area. It is a matter of satisfaction that Russian education is still of profound interest to Pakistan. Nearly 130 Pakistani students are now studying in the universities of our country. They study not only on a commercial basis but also making use of educational grants allocated from the Russian budget. We hail activities of the Association of Pakistani Graduates from Russia and the CIS established in Pakistan with more than three thousand members.

Eventful 65-year history of relations between Russia and Pakistan is unique in a way. The importance of interaction experience of two countries is that short-term declines were always followed by upswings. As President of Russia Vladimir V. Putin noted in his recent message to President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari on the occasion of the Pakistan Day, relations between our countries are on the rise. Mutually beneficial trade and economic ties are being strengthened, coordination within the UN, SCO and other multilateral structures brings visible results. The Russian leader reiterated his determination to keep up making concerted efforts to expand the constructive dialogue, promote stability and security in the Eurasian region.

In short, while celebrating the anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations Russia and Pakistan have a legitimate right to view the prospects of their partnership with optimism. Both countries make consistent efforts to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation for the benefit of peoples of Russia and Pakistan as well as in the interests of regional peace and stability.