Pakistan seeks to restore Russian ties to pre-1979 era

Economic cooperation between the two countries will help Islamabad exit FATF grey list


Shahbaz Rana February 26, 2022
Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Vladimir Putin held a meeting in Moscow. PHOTO: TWITTER/@mfa_russia

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ISLAMABAD:

With Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to Moscow, Pakistan has started the process of restoring economic ties to the era of pre-Soviet Union intervention in Afghanistan, seeking its support in rehabilitating power plants and a mega dam to meet energy deficit.

Highly placed sources told The Express Tribune that the government has envisaged a plan that seeks to build energy cooperation and deepen defence and security cooperation, including intelligence sharing and procurement of weapons.

The plan also includes having greater regional connectivity and promoting people-to-people contacts between Russia and Pakistan.

The government’s strategy is also to seek Moscow’s support to exit the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and for getting membership of Nuclear Supplier Group.

Pakistan also sought Russia’s help to restore Kashmir status to pre-August 2019 position, a cabinet member who visited Russia along with Prime Minister told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.

The sources said that Pakistan can build a long-lasting partnership with Russia and China and its many needs can be met by both of these major world powers.

Cooperation in the energy sector was discussed in detail and Russia has assured to give every possible assistance to Pakistan, Fawad Chaudhry, the information minister, said while talking to The Express Tribune.

Read: Qureshi justifies PM’s Russia visit, says ‘diplomatic space’ increased

Pakistan became an ally of the West to stop Soviet Union advances after its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. This brought an end to economic cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. Moscow had helped Pakistan in setting up an integrated steel mills, building power plants and provided technical assistance in science, Mohsin Sheikh, the director of Pakistan-Russia Business Council, said.

Premier Imran’s trip to Russia was overshadowed by Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

After Russian invasion of Ukraine began, European natural gas prices soared by almost 70% and crude oil exceeded $105 a barrel for the first time since 2014 before settling to just under $100.

On Friday, the European Union approved a second round of sanctions on Russia, targeting sectors of finance, transport and energy. It imposed export controls and restrictions on new visas. The EU package includes financial sanctions, targeting 70% of the Russian banking market and key state-owned companies, including in defence.

London will also target more than 100 Russian companies with asset freezes and travel bans, shut out Russian banks from British financial markets, impose new trade and export restrictions and ban the country’s national airline, Aeroflot, from UK airspace.

But the UK, the US and the EU are divided over completely cutting of Russia from global trade by severing it from SWIFT system (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), which is the main secure messaging system that banks use to make rapid and secure cross-border payments, allowing international trade to flow smoothly.

The sources said that the PM’s visit would help in achieving the goal of having stable multidimensional relations, marked by trust and vibrant interaction.

Energy cooperation

Prime Minister Imran had almost a three-hour long meeting with President Vladimir Putin followed by a delegation-level meeting with deputy prime minister of Russia.

Pakistan was seeking early commencement of 1,100-kilometre long Pakistan Stream Gas pipeline project in six months. The sources said that Pakistan is keen to finalise the shareholders’ agreement, financial agreement and other required agreements for groundbreaking of the project.

However, the project faced some early setbacks, which has already delayed finalisation of the shareholders agreement, according to a report appeared in a local newspaper in November.

The sources said during the visit, the Pakistani side discussed the possibility of importing LNG from Russia from six months to one year.

Read: Russia will return to negotiations after Ukraine's surrender: Lavrov

The government also wanted Russian support for modernisation of thermal power and hydropower projects. The government wants upgradation of Muzaffargarh power project, Guddu power plant and Jamshoro power project along with Mangla dam with Russian assistance within one year.

Pakistan will finalise a three-year roadmap for economic development within a year and legal framework for facilitating regional connectivity in the next two to three years, the sources said.

Defence ties

The sources said that deepening defence and security cooperation was also part of Pakistan’s plan that include procurement of new defence equipment from Russia without triggering any sanctions.

However, Pakistan has concerns regarding imbalance in strategic stability in South Asia after supply of new air defence system to India by Russia. The government has concerns about supply of Russian modern air defence system to India, the S400 missile system, the sources said.

They said that Pakistan also wanted to have institutionalised mechanism for intelligence sharing and for enhancing cooperation in security related matters in six months to one year. For this purpose, there is a plan to finalise pending agreements like agreement on Mutual Protection of Classified Information, agreement on Intellectual Property Rights and agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Ensuring International Information Security. There will be regular consultations between the national security advisers, according to the sources.

Pakistan also desired that both the countries should maintain regular high-level contacts and closer coordination and cooperation at the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. It also wants to win Russian support for Pakistan’s membership of Nuclear Supplier Group and Russian support in the FATF, the sources added.

The government also desired to get Russian scholarships for Pakistani students to study in Russia and finalise facilitating framework for cooperation between academia, state media of Pakistan and Russia in the next one to two years, they added.

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