Moscow ‘very preoccupied’ by increasing presence of IS in Afghanistan; Asif says terrorists in Afghanistan threat to Pak, Russia
Russia could help improve energy security for Pakistan through the delivery of liquefied natural gas, the Russian foreign minister said Tuesday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke Tuesday with his Pakistani counterpart, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, about the potential to improve energy ties. Among the priorities would be the construction of a gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore.
“Other options are also examined, including deliveries of liquefied natural gas to Pakistan by Gazprom,” Russia’s minister was quoted by news agency Tass as saying.
Lavrov noted that Pakistan is ripe for Russian energy investments because of historical ties to the region.
The Foreign Minister said Russia is “very preoccupied” by the increasing presence and influence of militant Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan. He said, “We are very preoccupied by what is happening in Afghanistan and by the expansion of IS influence.” According to Lavrov, the presence of IS in the north and east of Afghanistan is “serious” and “already amounts to a thousand people.” Moscow is especially concerned, he said, about the security threat this creates for neighbouring former Soviet republics and to Russia, says UPI.
“This is right on the borders of our Central Asian neighbours. It increases the risk of terrorists entering Central Asia, from where it’s not difficult for them to get to Russia, and further,” Lavrov said.
Addressing the press conference, Khawaja Asif said Pakistan and Russia share common concerns regarding “thr eats posed by prevailing situation in Afghanistan…[which include] terrorism, exponential increase in drug production, [and] use of drug money for terror finance”.
He said that Pakistan cannot fight wars of others on its soil and added, “There is a terrible situation in Afghanistan,” and expressed concerns on the presence of the Islamic State and growing trade of poppy.
He reaffirmed that the solution of the problem is in talks, and not a military operation. Asif lauded the role of both Pakistan and Russia in fighting terrorism.
Pakistan consumes most of the natural gas it produces and the country has faced power issues because of aging infrastructure.
According to the Asian Development Bank, Pakistan’s power sector has a gap between supply and demand of about 5,000 megawatts, which has put significant pressure on the prospects for economic growth.
The statement came a week after the United States put forward a motion to place Pakistan on a global terrorist-financing watch-list.
The minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the fight against terror despite the many losses the country has suffered. He also spoke about the threat the militancy poses to the entire region, identifying Daesh as the main challenge.
The foreign minister said that the concerns also include security of regional countries, increasing presence of Daesh, location of the organisation’s camps close to border with Pakistan and central Asian states.
“An Afghan-led reconciliation process…is the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he added.
He also praised Russia’s role for its efforts in establishing global peace and said it is playing an instrumental role against Daesh.
Asif repeated Pakistan’s stance that it is blamed for foreign forces’ failure to bring peace in Afghanistan and said it has rejected allegations aimed at “scapegoating” Pakistan for the West’s “monumental failure in Afghanistan”.
“Pakistan has sustained a lot of damage in the fight against terrorism,” he added. Commenting on relations with India, the foreign minister said that Pakistan wishes to hold talks with India to resolve Kashmir and other issues.
In a statement earlier, Foreign Office said Russia enjoys a special place in the country’s foreign policy – an unprecedented expression used for a country that remained Pakistan’s bitter cold war rival.
Pakistan now considers Russia a key player and partner, not only to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan but also the wider region.
The United States has been threatening to get tough with Islamabad over its alleged ties with militants, and last month President Donald Trump’s administration suspended aid worth about $2 billion.
It is not only the political relationship but there has been an improvement in military-to-military ties between the former cold war rivals.
In 2016, Russia dispatched the first-ever batch of its troops to Pakistan for joint military exercises, signalling a remarkable shift in ties between the two countries.
The leadership from Pakistan and Russia discussed current state of bilateral relations and prospects for their development as well as to exchange opinions on topical issues on the international and regional agenda, according to the Russian embassy in Islamabad.
The visit would provide opportunity to explore ways and means to further strengthen cooperation in political, economic, trade and investment, defence, education and cultural fields.
Russia has repeatedly criticised Washington’s strategy in Afghanistan, calling on the Taliban to be included in peace negotiations with the Afghan government.