Pak, Russia deepening bonds

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WITH the passage of time, a marked improvement is being witnessed in the bilateral relations of Pakistan and Russia.

The two sides are visibly making concerted efforts to establish foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship amidst dramatically shifting geopolitical competitions.

The recent engagements including at the top levels clearly indicate desire on both sides to take the relationship on upward trajectory.

We believe the 8th session of Pakistan-Russia Inter Government Commissions (IGC) on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation which concluded in Islamabad on Friday has remained very significant in terms of decisions and understanding reached there and if implemented in letter and spirit these will go a long way in building a multidimensional relationship which in fact is the key to forge deep bonds amongst their peoples.

We understand such a relationship will bury deep down the bitterness of the past. Islamabad talks were pivotal and closely watched in the context of how the two sides move forward on energy cooperation.

For more than a decade now, energy shortage has been amongst the most serious problems facing Pakistan.

It is exploring various options including imports from different sources to meet the rising demand.

Whilst Russia is rich in this aspect, hence, cooperation in this field will be a win-win for both of them.

Since Pakistan is also faced with the issue of balance of payment crisis, the import of oil on discounted rates from Moscow will really provide the much needed cushion to our economy.

Hence, the decision by both sides at the intergovernmental commission to address all technical issues including that of insurance, transportation and payment mechanism by March to sign an agreement for supply of discounted oil and petroleum products is a welcome development.

More encouraging is the fact that payments for energy imports will be made in the currencies of friendly countries.

In addition, the two countries are also planning for long-term cooperation in the energy sector.

Addressing a joint news conference, Minister for Economic Affairs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Russian Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov said they have agreed to work on a comprehensive plan for energy cooperation which will form the foundation for future work and it is to be finalized in 2023.

Given our rising demand and depleting gas reserves, Russia indeed can prove to be a cost effective source for us to meet our gas requirements.

The country has its infrastructure up to the Central Asian States and from there we can import gas through a pipeline.

The Russian side has repeatedly made an offer to Pakistan in this regard and we should seriously weigh this option to ensure energy security.

There has also been some progress towards implementation of Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline as both sides agreed to consider it in terms of comprehensive infrastructure and economically viable project for sustainable gas infrastructure development ensuring affordable gas supplies.

The scope of Islamabad talks was not limited to energy cooperation alone rather both the sides also discussed and agreed to enhance cooperation in a wide range of areas ranging from trade and investment to higher education, customs, communications and transport, industry, railways, agriculture, science and technology and Information Technology.

There was also greater emphasis on promoting connectivity and for this purpose, they agreed to nominate focal persons to enhance mutual cooperation and discuss issues concerning connectivity and logistics in Central and South Asia.

This will accrue benefit for the wellbeing of all the regional countries. Given the geo-strategic location, Pakistan can emerge as a regional trade hub as a result of improved connectivity.

Pakistan is already part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative whilst Russia is also seeing it positively, we believe that collective collaboration amongst the three countries on rail and road connectivity projects will go a long way in transforming the whole economic landscape of the region by opening up new vistas in different sectors including industries, tourism, logistics and so on.

While in the past, Russia has shown its keenness to revive Pakistan Steel Mills, built in 1974 by a consortium of Pakistani companies under the supervision of Soviet engineers/experts, we can also invite the Russian companies to exploit the opportunities of investment in Special Economic Zones being set up under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Anyway the opportunities of cooperation between Pakistan and Russia are immense and the current momentum of engagement must be taken forward to transform the vision of strong bonds into reality.

The people of Pakistan are also eagerly awaiting the long due visit of President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan which undoubtedly will give a new impetus to this relationship.