ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday began a three-day tour of Russia at a time when Pakistan is under tremendous US pressure to do more in the fight against terrorism.
Asif’s visit to Moscow is being seen as part of efforts to woo major international players, such as Russia, in the face of the tough US approach towards Pakistan.
The Foreign Office in a statement emphasised that “Russia enjoys a special place in our foreign policy” –an unprecedented expression used for a country that remained Pakistan’s bitter cold war rival.
The official handout said Asif was visiting Moscow on the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. During his stay in Moscow, the foreign minister will hold official talks with his Russian counterpart. The two sides would deliberate upon the entire spectrum of bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest.
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The visit would provide an opportunity to explore ways and means to further strengthen cooperation in political, economic, trade and investment, defence, education and cultural fields, said the statement.
The Foreign Office noted a steady growth in the relationship between the two countries in all fields.
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“Regular high-level exchanges between the two countries in the last few years are a manifestation of the mutual desire of both sides for translating political goodwill into a substantive and multidimensional partnership,” it said.
The two countries are also celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year.
The two foreign ministers had earlier met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York in September last year.
In the wake of recent developments, Pakistan now considers Russia a key player and partner, not only to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan but also the wider region.
It is not only the political relationship but there has been an improvement in military-to-military ties between the former cold war rivals.
In 2016, Russia dispatched the first-ever batch of its troops to Pakistan for joint military exercises, signalling a remarkable shift in ties between the two countries.
The two also share perspective on Afghanistan and believe that road to peace and stability goes through the sustained dialogue process with the Afghan Taliban.
Russia is increasingly concerned over the rise of IS in Afghanistan and feels that the terrorist outfits could also endanger its security. That is why along with China and Pakistan, Russia is also pushing for a political solution to the Afghan conflict.
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua met Turkish Ambassador Ishan Mustafa Yardakul and highlighted the complex nature of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan to support and strengthen peace there.
Besides promotion of bilateral relations, matters pertaining to the security situation in the region, the Middle East and Arab world were discussed, according to the statement.