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Pakistan to receive Russian weapons

ISLAMABAD: In a sign of improving bilateral relations, Russia reached out to Pakistan on Wednesday and said it was ready to strengthen Pakistan’s efforts in countering terrorism by supplying it with military equipment, and also announced further joint exercises between the two countries.

Assurance was also given to soon provide 150,000 more doses of Sputnik-V vaccine to Pakistan, while both sides also discussed possibilities of setting up of a vaccine plant in Pakistan.

Russia also welcomed ‘normalisation’ process, which has started between Pakistan and India. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday, called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday while earlier he held delegation level talk with his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office, followed by a press conference.

Prime Minister Imran Khan recalled his interaction with President Vladimir Putin during the SCO Summit in Bishkek in June 2019, where he had underscored his desire to take the bilateral relationship to a new level.

Pakistan lauded Russia’s contribution to regional stability and said that good bilateral relations add to regional stability and global security as well. “In the meeting, the prime minister reiterated the importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with Russia as a key foreign policy priority, and he expressed his satisfaction at the steady growth in bilateral ties, including deepening cooperation in trade, energy, security and defence,” said the Foreign Office in a statement.

Pakistan-Russia bilateral relations and issues of regional and global importance were also discussed. "We have confirmed that we stand ready to strengthen the anti-terrorist potential of Pakistan, including by supplying Pakistan with special military equipment. This serves interests of all states of the region," Lavrov told the media.

Qureshi after the delegation level talks said that building multi-dimensional relations with Russia is a key priority for Pakistan which believes a strong relationship contributes to regional stability and global security.

The prime minister while pointing to the health and economic challenges posed by the pandemic, congratulated Lavrov on Russia’s development of Sputnik-V vaccine and underscored Pakistan’s procurement plans in this regard.

"We have supplied to Pakistan 50,000 doses of the vaccine, and soon we will add 150,000 more doses. Vaccine production is up and running in India, in Korea, Belarus, so these vaccines can be supplied to Pakistan," Lavrov explained in his press talk.

He added that as much as Russia will be helping Pakistan in order to cater to its demand, there are already a lot of obligations by Russia to countries who had applied earlier. The prime minister updated Lavrov to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K), especially the human rights violations, and shared Pakistan’s perspective on issues of peace and security in South Asia, including the need for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Lavrov who flew in from New Delhi said this issue was raised in talks at the Foreign Office. "In the course of the talks, we also touched upon the fact that Pakistan and India start talks on the normalisation of relations, we welcome that," said Lavrov.

Imran Khan, while speaking in the regional context, stressed the importance of a negotiated political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan. “Pakistan appreciated Russia’s efforts in promoting the Afghan peace process including through the hosting of the recent meeting of Extended Troika in Moscow,” said the prime minister.

Lavrov while speaking at the Foreign Office on the issue said Russia was concerned at the present situation in Afghanistan.

“We are also concerned by the deterioration of the situation in the area of security in Afghanistan and by the rise in terrorist activities and march of ISIL in the north and east of the country. We agreed that we need to further facilitate the contradictory and hostile parties in Afghanistan for them to reach an agreement and put an end to a civil war based on inclusive dialogue,” Lavrov added.

Lavrov during delegation level talks reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to promoting bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in diverse fields, including economy, trade, and defence, while Pakistan pledged to extend facilities, including that of e-visa to foreign investors.

The prime minister raised the issue of the ‘Pakistan Stream’ North-South Gas Pipeline and reaffirmed his government’s resolve to expeditiously conclude the requisite legal process and commence the work as early as possible. The pipeline is designed from Karachi to Lahore under inter-government agreement signed in 2015.

Enhanced bilateral cooperation in the fields of energy, industrial modernisation, railways and aviation was also discussed. It was agreed that the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC), due to meet in Moscow later this year, would closely pursue specific proposals and projects in this context.

Views were also exchanged on situation in West Asia, the Gulf, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region. Both sides agreed that the next round of Pakistan-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission should be convened as soon as the pandemic-related restrictions are eased.

The foreign minister noted with appreciation the close cooperation between Pakistan and Russia within the United Nations and at other multilateral fora including Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Matters relating to Security Council reform were also discussed.

Qureshi in his meeting with his Russian counterpart underlined that strengthening of relations with the Russian Federation was an important foreign policy priority for Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Sergey Lavrov during his meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters acknowledged Pakistan’s achievements in war against terrorism and contributions for regional peace and stability, especially Pakistan’s sincere efforts in the Afghan peace process.

The Russian foreign minister said Pak-Russia relations are on a positive trajectory and will continue to develop in multiple domains. During the meeting, matters of mutual interest including enhanced defence and security cooperation, regional security, particularly Afghan peace process were discussed.

The COAS said that Pakistan values its relations with Russia and reciprocates the desire for enhanced bilateral military cooperation. He said Pakistan welcomes all initiatives which can bring peace and stability in Afghanistan as the whole region will benefit from it.

“We have no hostile designs towards any country and will keep on working towards a cooperative regional framework based on sovereign equality and mutual progress,” the COAS maintained.