Pak-Russia economic cooperation | By Tariq Khalil


Pak-Russia economic cooperation

IT is over a decade PRBF took first step to promote business between Russian Federation and Pakistan.

It was to create an open forum to promote mutual business without shackles of bureaucratic binding. The idea was floated by the then CG of Russian Federation.

The journey has been difficult and stormy. Though the dark clouds have started getting a thaw, yet the relations between the two countries progressed after the successive visits of army chiefs.

Since then the relationship has been growing with every passing day. It may be noted that economic solutions are dependent on political climate.

Fortunately, the Russia-Pakistan political relationship and strategic matrix is improving and today the two stand together on many regional and international issues. It has resulted in the promotion of trust between them. Pakistan Stream LNG gas pipeline project will be completed by 2025.

It is a flagship project after the 1970s when the Steel Mill construction commenced, says Russian Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov.

Yet there is a great scope of improvement in trade and industry between the two countries. Russia is a supermarket of consumer goods which is over $22 billion.

To get a pie in it, one needs to put some fundamentals in place to ensure that the trade and industrial cooperation grows, improves and prospers.

With a long standing financial dispute between Pakistan companies and Russian resolved, the way is clear.

The fundamentals are: first, a banking relationship established immediately, two, direct flights from Moscow to Karachi and Islamabad.

There are hundreds of Russian private airlines who can be persuaded to start flights between the two countries. Direct flying time is slightly over five hours.

Russian and Pakistan airlines in the private sector could be given permission to fly to Moscow and Islamabad/Karachi. Third, there is an immediate need to have a joint Business Council.

Fourth, there is a dire requirement to revise the tariff regime between the two countries. IT Sector is another great potential area wherein both countries can benefit.

In the CPEC, Russian presence will boost trade and industry between the two countries. Through western route and Gwadar port, ME and South Asia will have the shortest distance for Russian goods.

China has no objection if Russia joins CPEC. There is a large number of Russian companies that would benefit by putting their production units in CPEC industrial zones and export the goods.

It will save not only shipping time but also cost which can make their products more competitive.

Railway is another area where large opportunities are available. Karachi-Islamabad track can be replaced and upgraded by Russian Railway on a public-private basis. It will be additional to ML-1. Then there are other routes which need to be upgraded.

Similarly KPTS Tram manufacturing company at Saint Petersburg can have a large market in Pakistan and can provide battery-operated electronic trams in all major cities on the existing roads saving huge cost on raising infrastructure.

Besides oil and gas, there is immense room for modern agriculture technology sharing. This will cover all aspects like seeds, watering, use of technology to enhance productivity. In the field of scientific research there is a great scope.

Commercial aviation is another area in the manufacture of aircraft in collaboration with other European manufacturers. Pakistan can gain a lot in this field.

We have been asking for media collaboration but it has not progressed. Film, television and technical collaboration and production has vast scope and room for cooperation. There are historical linkages which need to be explored.

Similarly education exchanges in the field of technical education, medical research, agri research, civil and mechanical discipline, space and oil industry will be beneficial. Production and education of the agri industry is another area.

Time has come that both countries should exchange views to accord tourist and business visas on arrival on pre-submitted application online.

To do the above, the joint council is to become more active. I suggest FPCCI’s representation be also there.

—The writer, a retired Brigadier, a veteran of 1965, 1971 wars with SJ, SI, and IS Bar Gallantry. A senior Defence and Industry analyst.

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