Prime Minister Imran Khan says Islamabad is hopeful of increasing military ties with Moscow ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek.
The premier, who arrived in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek on Thursday, will represent Pakistan in the 19th meeting of the council of the heads of states of the SCO.
“We have developed cooperation with Russia between our defense forces … and hope to deepen our contacts,” the PM said while speaking to a Russian publication.
“Most of the 50s, 60s, 70s were spent in the Cold War region, where India was close to the Soviet Union, and Pakistan was close to the United States. We were in different camps. Now things have changed … It is refreshing that we have developed our contacts with Russia, and they are developing all the time,” he said.
To a question on whether Islamabad intends to purchase weapons from Moscow, the premier said the Pakistani and Russian militaries were already coordinating on the matter. “First, we hope that our tension with India decreases, so we do not have to buy arms because we want to spend money on human development. But, yes, we are looking for arms from Russia, and I know our military is already in touch with the Russian military,” said the PM.
Responding to a question regarding India, Khan once again offered Delhi to resolve all differences through dialogue, saying that there was no way that two nuclear-armed countries should think of resolving differences through military means.
Khan said Kashmir is the main issue between Pakistan and India and both the countries should sit on the negotiating table to resolve that issue peacefully. Pakistan believes that progress comes with peace and tensions with neighbours divert resources that can be spent on human beings, Radio Pakistan quoted the prime minister as saying.
The prime minister said Pakistan was willing to pursue all options – including international mediation – to resolve issues with its neighbours. “Pakistan is looking for any kind of mediation because Pakistan believes that progress comes with peace.”
Delving further on the matter, PM Imran said peace among India and Pakistan was entirely dependent on the issue of Kashmir. “The only difference, if we resolve that there will be peace in the subcontinent, that’s Kashmir. Unfortunately, Kashmir can only be resolved if the people of Kashmir are given the right of self-determination, which was guaranteed to them by the United Nations in 1945.”
Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan agreed to comprehensively upgrade mutual cooperation in diverse fields and strengthen the land and air connectivity between the two countries.
The ties were discussed in a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Sharipovich Jeenbekov held on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Bishkek.
Both the sides had a cordial meeting wherein the prime minister congratulated the Kyrgyz president on hosting the SCO Summit. The Kyrgyz president appreciated Pakistan’s role in the SCO.
The two leaders reviewed bilateral relations and also agreed to hold joint ministerial commission and bilateral political consultations soon. Both the countries agreed to enhance people-to-people contacts and boost tourism cooperation through friendly visa regimes.
The premier, who is making his debut appearance at the SCO, will address two sessions of the meeting, and will have bilateral interaction with other participating leaders on the sidelines of the meeting.
Khan, accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Special Assistant on Youth Affairs Usman Dar, arrived in Bishkek on Thursday. He was received by Kyrgyz PM and health minister at the Manas International Airport.
The Council of Heads of State is the highest forum of SCO which considers and defines strategy, prospects and priorities of the organisation. At the 19th summit, a number of decisions will be approved by the leaders along with the signing of agreements to intensify cooperation in diverse fields.
‘Regional collaboration only way forward’
Elaborating on what Pakistan intends to achieve from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, the premier said the primary goal was to improve bilateral ties.
“Previously, Pakistan’s orientation was more towards the West. Now Pakistan is looking to diversify, find new markets or different relationships with those countries, which we had very nominal relationships [with] before. The SCO countries provide us [with] these fresh outlets and developing our relationship with these countries … And, yes, it will be an opportunity to speak to the Indian leadership during this SCO conference.”
He also spoke about the plans to construct a rail network connecting Uzbekistan, Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “I think this is a tremendous project because connectivity between Pakistan going on through Afghanistan to Uzbekistan, to Russia will open up this whole region. And then, remember, from there it will go from Pakistan right down to Gwadar, which is the shortest route to the ocean. So it will open up the whole area.”
The Afghanistan conundrum
The premier also focused on ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan and his approach to the matter since assuming office. “I’ve had a meeting with President Ghani in Saudi Arabia, just a week or so ago. We had a very good conversation, we talked about how Pakistan help Afghanistan in resolving the issue about the civil war that is going on there, how we can get the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government and how there can be peace in Afghanistan. So it is in the interest of Pakistan and Afghanistan for there to be peace in Afghanistan.”
He stressed that Pakistan “will be trying everything and is trying everything” to help achieve peace. “They [the Taliban] are already talking to the Americans, and we hope that the Taliban will then talk to the Afghan government so that there is peace. And this is something we crave in Pakistan.”
On Russia’s efforts in Afghanistan, the prime minister said the talks hosted in Moscow between the Taliban and various members of Afghan political parties were “a very positive thing”.
“I think Moscow has a role to play, Moscow has influence in areas of Afghanistan. In fact, all the neighbors should help to bring about peace and stability in Afghanistan.
A messenger of peace
The prime minister concluded the interview with an appeal for peace and global unity. “I would say what I’ve just always believed in — that the world should move towards improving trade, helping the poor people of this world. The world should combine together to end poverty.
It should reduce these tensions in the world … And I’m a pacifist, who believes that the military is no way of resolving issues in this world. And Pakistan has suffered a lot in these last 10-15 years after joining the US war on terror. And we’ve suffered a lot.”
“Our country lost over 70,000 people and billions of dollars are lost to the economy. So my government believes that we want to be a country, which will bring countries together, which will play a part in reconciling differences between countries.”
PM Imran asserted that Pakistan “would never want to be part of any war coalitions”. “We want to play a part in bringing countries together, and peace, and trade, so that we can have more harmony in this world. So I am an idealist and that is what I believe.”