Article by Mr. Andrey Budnik, Ambassador of the Russian Federation in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Russia and Pakistan: new momentum

Russian-Pakistani relations are on the rise. The intensity of our bilateral contacts has of late considerably risen at all levels. Our relations gained additional positive momentum in 2011 after an official visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Russia in May and his meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the “Dushanbe Quartet” (Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan) summit in September. Besides, Chairman of Government Vladimir Putin met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during the session of the Council of Heads of Government of SCO Member States in Saint Petersburg in November. Our Foreign ministers Sergey Lavrov and Hina Rabbani Khar met in New York on the sidelines of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in late September. We also interacted tightly on the whole spectrum of the bilateral agenda: in the sphere of education, energy, counter-terrorism and counternarcotics.

The intensification of our political contacts is not an accidental phenomenon – it is logically stipulated by growing understanding in Moscow and Islamabad that our countries have many common interests and objectives. First and foremost, it applies to providing regional security and stability, countering threats of terrorism and extremism in all forms and manifestations. Along with our Pakistani partners we resolutely stand against illicit arms trade, drug trafficking, money laundering, cross-border organized crime. We hold detailed discussions on all these issues, particularly within the framework of the joint working group on countering international terrorism and other new challenges to international security.

Russia fully recognizes and appreciates the substantial contribution made by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the efforts of world community in this sphere. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers and officers, policemen and intelligence operatives sacrificed their lives while purging their country of terror hotbeds, proving with deeds the commitment of Pakistan to genuine Islamic and human values.

We share the grief of Pakistanis over the tragic incident in Mohmand on the border with Afghanistan in the end of November this year. Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov had a telephone talk with his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar and expressed condolences in connection with losses of Pakistani soldiers and officers during the air raid on two check posts at the Pakistani-Afghan border. He said that the ISAF-NATO command in Afghanistan should conduct a thorough investigation into the incident. Sergey Lavrov expressed understanding of the Pakistani Government's position and stressed inadmissibility of violation of states' sovereignty, including in planning and carrying out counterterrorist operations.

Russia attaches great importance to cooperation with Pakistan in the sphere of Afghan settlement. Instability in this country is our mutual concern. The success of efforts to elaborate optimum ways of reconstruction and reconciliation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is impossible to achieve without active interaction with states bordering it, and primarily Pakistan, because many problems of these two countries are closely intertwined.

Russian and Pakistani policy is characterized by recognition of the fact that the search of ways to settle current highly sophisticated conflict situation must not become the prerogative of solely external players. The participation of the regional community in this process is imperative.

Certainly, the Afghans themselves must make a major and crucial contribution to the settlement by strengthening the state that would maintain good-neighbourly relations with the circumjacent countries and carry out the policy of neutralism while not allowing any external interference in its internal affairs. There is no doubt that it is indispensable to guarantee full sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Both Russia and Pakistan substantially contribute to the economic development and reconstruction of the friendly state.

Russia attaches great importance to combating drug trafficking from Afghanistan which poses a serious threat both for Russia and for the  Central Asian countries. The Russian Government stresses importance of joined international efforts against the narcotics threat and welcomes assistance of Pakistan in this sphere. In the beginning of December, 2011 in Russia, Director of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service Victor Ivanov and deputy Director General of the Pakistani Anti Narcotics Force Akhtar Mahmood held bilateral consultations on cooperation against the drug threat emanating from Afghanistan. They agreed on information sharing and carrying out joint special operations on cutting the flows of the Afghani drug trafficking.

Regional security including settlement of the Afghan situation, struggle against terror and drug threat would undoubtedly be facilitated by normalizing the relationship between the two major South Asian states – India and Pakistan. In this connection Moscow embraces the resumption of political dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi.

On the whole, Russia and Pakistan work productively within both international and regional formats. We adhere to similar or identical positions on major international issues including crisis management, formation of multipolar world order, strengthening of the United Nations’ role and authority as well as supremacy of international law. We welcome the election of Pakistan as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for a period of 2012-2013 and count on fruitful interaction with our Pakistani colleagues within the framework of this authoritative organization. Recently we have had efficient consultations between our Foreign Ministries on the UN agenda in Islamabad.

We have a lot of common interests in disarmament and non-proliferation sphere: we discuss these problems on a regular basis. It does not mean that there are no differences between us. But most importantly, we discuss existing complex issues sincerely and in a practical way, respecting and not offending each other, thus promoting the atmosphere of healthy cooperation between our countries.

We attach primary importance to the consolidating and integrating role of the SCO. This organization has lately become one of the most authoritative and influential in the region. By now Pakistan enjoys the status of the SCO observer-state, but along with other candidates it has all the chances to become a full member of the organization. Russia supports the intention of Pakistan to become a full-fledged member of the SCO. The real prospects of Islamabad’s contribution to the SCO activity – both in the sphere of solving security problems (within the framework of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure) and in expanding economic cooperation – are already evident.

It would be proper to mention that being the largest transit state, Russia quite positively assesses Pakistan’s transit capabilities, whose importance is undoubtedly gaining ground in today’s interdependent world. In our opinion, the construction of transport and energy corridors in Southwest and Central Asia is a key not only to successful development of the countries situated there, but also an important factor of strengthening security in the region.

Today we have vast opportunities for giving impetus to the economic component of our bilateral cooperation. In this connection the first meeting of Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation held in September, 2010 was a significant event. It helped to outline specific areas of our interaction as well as the projects that can be practically realized within the framework of the two countries’ cooperation. We should continue persistent work to increase our bilateral trade volume and improve its structure. US 400 million Dollars annually does not meet our real trade potential. Establishment of banks’ representations in both countries and improvement of our trade legal basis could be an effective tool for its development. 

We expect that the next meeting of Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation scheduled to be held in the first quarter of 2012 will contribute to an early implementation of prospective regional projects (electricity transit from Central Asia - CASA-1000, construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline) as well as national ones (reconstruction and modernization of Pakistan Steel Mills in Karachi, reconstruction of Multan-2 and Guddu power plants built with the help of the USSR, gas-deposits exploitation and coal-deposits in Thar,  telecommunication development, modernization of Pakistani railways, etc.).

It should be acknowledged that there are some factors impeding the development of economic cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. That is a certain passivity of our companies as well as the lack of mutual awareness, particularly, of the economy dynamics and the development of both countries’ legal basis in the respective sphere. In this connection we welcome the establishment of Pakistan-Russia Business Forum by Pakistani companies and local organizations concerned. This Forum along with Pakistan-Russia Business Council (also formed by Pakistani enterprises) aims at promoting direct contacts between the business communities of our states. We are also working at the idea of establishing a joint business council with an active participation of Russian companies.

Analyzing Russian-Pakistani relations, one would draw attention to a simplified approach to their history still remaining in a section of the Pakistani political mindset. Appeals to “abandon the prejudice of a cold war period” resound here from time to time. In this connection it is appropriate to emphasize that even at the height of this period when the Soviet Union and Pakistan were pushed to opposite block systems, Moscow continued to develop its contacts with Islamabad and gave active assistance to Pakistani economy. It was in the seventies and eighties when Karachi’s Pakistan Steel Mills, Multan and Guddu power plants were constructed with the direct help of USSR.

The reconsideration of Russian-Pakistani relations in accordance with the realities of modern international situation took the period of the late nineties and early years of the current century. It was then that the leaders of both countries categorically opted for overcoming the remaining divisive lines in the region and emphasized that Moscow-Islamabad interaction is not subject to any outside influence and has its own value. The past decade fully proved the correctness of this approach.

To sum up, the main thing has to be emphasized. We have a solid foundation for constructing a multistorey building of Russian-Pakistani relations, and there are excellent opportunities to do it in a proper way. All we need is to use them.