Both countries stand to
gain substantially by improving trade and diplomatic ties
April 29 - May 05, 2002
The recent visit of a six-member parliamentary
delegation from Russia headed by the Chairman of the Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs of the state duma is an important
development both from political and economic point of view. It is an
expression of the fact that the two countries, turning their back on
the bitterness of the past, are looking forward for a new era of
friendship and cooperation. The visit is the most recent in the steady
trickle of delegations going back and forth between the two countries
during the past few months.
The leader of the delegation Dimitry O-Rogozin
expressed the confidence that Pakistan-Russia relation would
strengthen and new chapter of bilateral relation and economic
cooperation will begin between the two countries. From Pakistan's
point of it is undoubtedly, an important development in context of its
all-out efforts to attract foreign investment in addition to
diversification of export and import trade globally.
The Russians have evinced keen interest in
exploring investment opportunities in Pakistan's oil and gas sector in
addition to exploitation of other mineral resources. At a meeting with
the federal minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Usman
Aminuddin in Islamabad the delegation indicated possibilities of
Russian private investment in these sectors on a fairly wide range.
The federal petroleum minister recalled Russian assistance to Pakistan
in the 1960s for the development of oil, gas and mineral resources in
the country. He felt that this relationship could once again be
renewed with enhanced cooperation between the two countries. He
disclosed that a Pakistan delegation would be sent to Russia as early
as possible with plans to give a concrete shape to the proposals for
reactivating Pak-Russian economic relationship especially in the
fields of oil, gas and mineral development.
The Russians were also keen on launching joint
ventures with Pakistan, and were eager to expand the present
relatively low volume of trade between the two countries, which stands
at a mere 60 million dollars. The Russians also showed interest in
investing in Pakistan, particularly in the field of heavy machinery,
construction equipment and agricultural products. In the past, the two
countries collaborated on the massive steel mill project and have
recently decided to collaborate in the field of space technology. The
challenge today is to build on such past cooperation. Clearly, both
countries stand to gain substantially by improving trade and
diplomatic ties. Forgetting the past and moving forward to a new era
of cordiality is clearly the best option for Pakistan and Russia in a
world no more haunted by the cold war.
The optimism expressed by the Russian leader about
prospects of improvement in bilateral relations with Pakistan augurs
well for their future ties. The remarks are indicative of the goodwill
that exists at top policy making levels in Russian for Pakistan.
Russian leaders have off and on been expressing their desire to have
good relations with Pakistan but unfortunately these gestures could
not materialize into reality due to a host of factors. No doubt the
Russian leaders have heavily been tilting in favour of India but this
does not necessarily mean hostilities with Pakistan. In fact, most of
the blame rests on Pakistan as it did not care much to improve its
relations with a country that had great influence as one of the two
superpowers and considerably influence even after loss of this status.
A cursory glance on developments in our foreign
policy history would tell us that we ignored Russian gestures in our
zest to have closer relations with the United States and the West. And
we have not changed this approach even after change of the ground
realities. Now Americans and Europeans themselves are trying to forge
a cooperative relationship with the Russian Federation and in many
areas consider it as an ally. Similarly, with a U-turn in our
Afghanistan policy, there should not be any irritant blocking progress
in trying to have friendly relationship between the two countries.
Russia is opening up its economy and it should not be difficult for
our public and private sector to increase exports to that country.
Entering into a meaningful cooperative relationship with Russia can
also help remove misunderstandings on regional and international
issues as well as neutralise New Delhi's influence on Moscow to a
great extent. Let us hope that our policy makers would review our
policy vis-a-vis Russian in greater national interests.