Russia seeks expansion in ties with Pakistan: Foreign Minister Lavrov

Islamabad: Russia is keen to expand and deepen bilateral ties with Pakistan as the first shipment carrying discounted Russian oil reached Karachi Port at the weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Lavrov made these remarks in a video message on the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Islamabad, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.

He said Russia views Pakistan as a “key international partner in the joint efforts to combat common security challenges and threats, including transborder crime and terrorism.” Pakistan on Monday began transporting the much-anticipated discounted Russian crude oil to a refinery here in the cash-strapped country’s port city, a development that is likely to provide relief to the people hit by skyrocketing inflation.

Pakistan on Monday began transporting the much-anticipated discounted Russian crude oil to a refinery here in the cash-strapped country’s port city, a development that is likely to provide relief to the people hit by skyrocketing inflation.

The first shipment of discounted Russian crude oil arrived in Karachi on Sunday after an agreement was inked between Islamabad and Moscow in April.

“We know about the great interest and respect that the Pakistani people have towards Russia and President Vladimir Putin. We appreciate it very much,” the Russian foreign minister said in a statement.

He said that there had been different periods in bilateral relations over the past three-quarters of a century. However, he added, Russia had always been interested in expanding cooperation with Pakistan and under no circumstances has abandoned its commitments.

“The participation of Soviet specialists in the construction of the largest steel mill in Karachi (now called Pakistan Steel Mills) in the 1980s, despite the conflict raging in Afghanistan at the time, is clear evidence of this. The Guddu Thermal Power Plant, then the largest in your country, was also commissioned at that time,” according to Lavrov.

“Nowadays, our relations are advanced and based on trust. They are founded on the concurrence or proximity of approaches to the key issues of the international agenda. Together with our Pakistani partners, we stand for shaping a more just and democratic multipolar world order,” he added.

“We respect the cultural and civilisational diversity of peoples and their right to determine the avenues of their political, social and economic development themselves. I would like to note that Russia’s vision of the world order and our understanding of traditional moral values are in harmony with the principles of faith, unity and discipline formulated by the father of the Pakistani people Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It is on these pillars that the statehood of modern Pakistan is based,” Lavrov said.

He said that Russia attached great importance to further constructive cooperation with Pakistan in international fora.

“We highly appreciate Pakistan’s contribution to the activities of the United Nations and its specialised agencies. We welcome Islamabad’s active involvement in joint work within the SCO as a full member of this organisation, which plays an important role in establishing multilateral cooperation in Greater Eurasia.”

“It is encouraging that over the recent years, we have succeeded in making significant progress in bilateral trade. Russia has become a major supplier of wheat to Pakistan, with shipments exceeding one million tonnes last year. Negotiations on launching a cooperation project in the oil sector are at their final stage.”

He said that Russia was willing to work together on further engagement with Pakistan and its people, strengthening mutually beneficial relations in politics, security, economy, education, cultural and humanitarian fields, as well as in other areas.

He concluded the video by raising the slogan “Pakistan-Roosi dosti zindabad.” Pakistan and Russia have remained bitter Cold War rivals, but their bilateral ties have taken a positive turn in recent years, with both sides willing to bury the past and adjust to the new realities.

The two countries have been making efforts to translate their years of quiet diplomacy into tangible outcomes.

The first shipment is part of the pilot project to assess if Russian oil can be beneficial for Pakistan.

Pakistan, which is currently grappling with high external debt and a weak local currency, is hoping that snapping crude at discounted rates from Russia will stabilise oil prices in the country.

Energy accounts for the biggest share of Pakistan’s imports, and cheaper oil from Russia will help Pakistan in containing the ballooning trade deficit and balance-of-payments crisis.

Pakistan’s inflation rate accelerated to 38 per cent in May from the record high of 36.4 per cent in April, according to the central bank data.

The cataclysmic floods last year inundated a third of the country, displaced more than 33 million and caused economic damages to the tune of USD 12.5 billion to Pakistan’s already teetering economy.