In a rare show of diplomatic support for Islamabad, Russia on Thursday opposed the US drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas as foreign ministers of both countries discussed bilateral ties and the Afghan endgame in Islamabad on Thursday.
“It is not acceptable to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any state,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar here.
The remarks by the top Russian diplomat suggest the possibility of realignment in the region ahead of a crucial phase in the Afghan endgame as Nato combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014.
Pakistan and Russia remained bitter cold-war rivals in the 1980s when Islamabad joined the Western alliance, led by the United States, to defeat the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
However, the Russian foreign minister arrived in Islamabad on a two-day tour as part of ongoing efforts to formalise the silent reset in Pakistan-Russia relations.
Speaking to the media, Foreign Minister Khar highlighted the importance Pakistan attached to its ties with Russia.
“There is clearly a national consensus amongst the political divide in Pakistan, amongst the people of Pakistan that relations with Russia must be strengthened,” she said.
Khar added that Islamabad considered Russia as an important player and “source of stability” in the region. During formal talks at the Foreign Office, the two countries discussed a range of issues, from bilateral ties to the current situation in Afghanistan and Syria.
Foreign Minister Lavrov called for a reconciliation process solely driven by Afghans themselves.
“Any attempt to impose a solution from outside will not work,” he argued.
It is believed that Pakistan and Russia are seeking a regional solution to the decades-old Afghan conflict in an effort to counter American influence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who earlier cancelled his much-anticipated visit to Islamabad, is believed to have sent his top diplomat to Islamabad in a bid to assure the Pakistani leadership that his decision to postpone his trip would not affect rapprochement efforts. On Thursday, Lavrov claimed that Putin’s visit was put off due to scheduling issues.
Foreign Minister Khar also said the two sides agreed to explore opportunities for an early rescheduling of Putin’s visit to Pakistan.
PM meets foreign minister
A statement issued after a meeting between Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and the Russian foreign minister said the two countries had convergence on many regional and international issues, including Afghanistan and Syria.
Prime Minister Ashraf said over the years there had been “good progress” in the ties between Pakistan and Russia.
Referring to a recent high-level visit by a Russian delegation that signed a number of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with Pakistan, the premier said the steel mills, a symbol of the friendship of Pakistan and Russia in the 20th century, will now serve as a bridge to further intensify the relations between the two countries in the 21st century.
The premier added that Pakistan sought increased economic relations and benefits from Russia, especially in the energy sector, since Russia had experience in mining coal and generation of coal power plants.
Ashraf hoped both countries would exchange parliamentary, business and cultural delegations to further strengthen relations.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2012.