Describing President Pervez Musharraf visit to Russia
as momentous, the advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance, Mr. Shaukat
Aziz said it has given a new turn to bilateral and economic ties between
the two countries.
Mr. Shaukat Aziz addressed a press conference in
Islamabad jointly with Commerce Minister Mr. Humayun Akhtar and
Secretary Ministry of Industries Dr. Akram Sheikh who accompanied the
President on his visit to Russia. "With this visit we will writing
a new chapter on Pak-Russia relations marked with increase mutual
understanding and advanced help and cooperation in economic field".
Mr. Aziz said he listed several positive features of the visit including
re-activization of the Joint Economic Commission, agreement with
President Putin on rescheduling of $ 125 million debt; proposed
modernization and expansion of Soviet-aided Pakistan Steel's capacity of
1.1 million tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes 'topmost Russian oil companies'
interest in new international gas pipeline and investment in offshore
and onshore exploration in Pakistan's petroleum sector. He added that in
S&T sector, Pakistan has also sounded Russian for assistance in
launching Pak Sat-II in space after recent launch of Pak Sat-I and
likely transfer of technology.
Elaborating on the proposals for economic
cooperation, Commerce Minister said that joint economic mission would
meet within the next few months and he hoped a delegation would
accompany the Russian team to discuss of fostering more trade ties.
Besides, Pakistan would set up a warehouse for Pakistan's exports in
Moscow, as a number of warehouses are being opened in some other
Dr. Akram Shaikh, Secretary, Ministry of Industries,
gave details of MoU signed with Russia for $ 100 million assistance for
expansion of steel mill capacity and the new focus on value-added
products of the steel mill. The expansion programme of the Steel Mill,
which has materialized during this visit was in negotiations since over
President Pervez Musharraf visits to Russian this
month is the first visit of any Pakistani head of the State or
Government since 1972 when Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto visited the then Soviet
Union as President of Pakistan. This visit provided long due opportunity
to the two leaders to bury the unpleasant past marked with mutual
mistrust and begin a new chapter of close ties between the two
countries. During the visit the two presidents broke new grounds as they
had "serious and conceptual discussion on all bilateral, regional
and international issues. The busy schedule finalized by the top
diplomats on the two sides, Musharraf and Putin had been provided
adequate time for serious discussion encompassing all issues such as
Iraq, Kashmir, Pak-India relations, nuclear proliferations, terrorism
and expansion in economic ties and cooperation. They had a two hours
long one to one meeting as well.
Although this visit was not expected to bring about
any dramatic change in the relations of the two countries but at the
same time one should not under estimate the big initiative taken by the
two countries. The greatest impetus for Pak-Russian reconciliation is
the dawning of realization in both Moscow and Islamabad that
collaboration is vital for the stability of Afghanistan, Central Asia
and the region in general. It may be pointed out that Iranian President
Khatami's visit to Pakistan last month more or less covered these areas.
Further more the friendly Pak-Russian relationship can better ensure
promotion of the two countries economic interests in resource-rich
Secondly, no body understands it better than Kremlin
that Pakistan's strategic location makes it a valuable for any state.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been able to exploit its strategic
location to its advance, and allowed itself to be used cheaply by the
United States. Pakistan is a vital link in the stability of the belt in
which Moscow has overbearing stakes and interest.
There has always been a strong feeling in Pakistan
that opening of the Moscow Window was in the country's interest.
However, on account of the rapidly changing priorities and whims within
the establishment, the policy toward Moscow has suffered from
inconsistency. It will always remain debatable whether Pakistan has any
other option than friendship with the United States immediately after
independence. However, there is no difference of opinion that friendship
with US at the cost of enmity with the Kremlin was not a wise approach.
Pakistan at no stage had the capacity and recourses to play the role of
a front-line state. This was a suicidal approach for which the country
had to pay dearly subsequently. Pakistan has to learn to have friendly
relations with both Moscow and Washington at the same time. With the end
of cold war this should pose no problem for Islamabad. India has done it
remarkably well and in the process gained enormously. Even during the
height of cold war, Indian was equally important both in Washington and
Moscow. The comparison may irk Pak policy farmers, but lessons could
only be learnt from facing the truth.