President Asif Ali Zardari was expected in Moscow on Wednesday for talks with Russian leaders on his first major foreign visit since the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will host Zardari for talks on Thursday at
the Kremlin where officials from the two countries were also expected to sign agreements on cooperation in agriculture, aviation and energy, said Pakistan Embassy spokesperson Raja Abdul Qayyum.
Zardari visited Kuwait at the weekend for talks with its leaders and business executives, while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is due to visit China next week as Pakistan looks to bolster its alliances at a time of crisis.
Zardari’s programme includes a tour of Skolkovo, a future high-tech centre outside Moscow billed as Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley and a trip to the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg.
Speaking in an interview with Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency ahead of the visit, Zardari said he hoped his talks in Russia would breathe a new life into bilateral ties.
“I expect a lot from my upcoming visit to Russia,” he was quoted as saying. “I hope that during this visit the relations between our countries will receive a new development impetus.”
The president also said ramping up economic and political ties was in the interests of both countries. “Tsarist Russia was dreaming about getting access to southern seas,” he was quoted as saying.
“Pakistan invites modern Russia to take advantage of its access to southern seas which will no doubt facilitate economic prosperity of the two countries.”
Moscow is not usually seen as an ally of Islamabad, not least because of its close ties to India.
Tensions also still linger over the Pakistani secret service’s backing of mujahedeen insurgents against Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
Citing a source close to the management of state conglomerate Russian Technologies, Vedomosti business daily said on Wednesday that the highlight of the Zardari visit would be a preliminary agreement to give Pakistan a $540 million loan to modernise the Soviet-built Pakistan Steel plant.
A delegation from Prominvest, a Russian Technologies subsidiary, has visited the plant and reached preliminary agreements, the source told the newspaper.
Russian Technologies could not confirm the report.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.