Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that his government has been mulling purchase of arms from Moscow, given the fact that the Cold War was long over. Khan said so in an interview with Russian news agency Sputnik before heading to Kyrgyzstan for the 19th SCO Summit.
Asked about military cooperation between Pakistan and Russia and joint drills later this year, he said they had developed cooperation with Russia, between their defence forces, and hoped to deepen their contacts.
“Most of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were spent in the Cold War region, where India was close to the Soviet Union, and Pakistan was close to the United States. We were in different camps. Now things have changed,” the Khan said.
“India is also friendly with the United States, and Pakistan is also friendly with the US. So we no longer have the Cold War situation. It is refreshing that we have developed our contacts with Russia, and they are developing all the time.”
Responding to a question about the import of Russian weapons, he said, “As I’ve said, once the Cold War was over. Previously Pakistan was tied to the US, and, as we all know, India was tied to the Soviet Union. And no longer is that situation there. First, we hope that our tension with India decreases, so we do not have to buy arms because we want to spend money on human development”.
“But, yes, we are looking for arms from Russia, and I know our military is already in touch with the Russian military,” Khan commented. Regarding the prospects of Pakistan-Russia cooperation within the SCO, he said they look forward to having exchanges, develop more contacts and improve their trade.
“Russia is an energy-surplus country. Pakistan has shortages in energy, so we hope to talk on those areas. We already are. Apart from defence, we want to also improve our trade in other areas with Russia,” the prime minister said.
“We hope our trade delegations will soon go to Russia. We will invite Russian trade delegations here, get them opportunities to invest in Pakistan. I do believe that there is a Russian steel company, which is looking to invest in our steel mill in Karachi. In fact, it was made by Russia.”
He said Pakistan was going in no-visa regime direction. “Seventy countries will now be able to get visa at the airport. Previously we did not have this agreement with anyone, but now we are opening up Pakistan for tourism, for investment, and we feel that we want to make it easier for countries to come and get a visa. There are seventy countries — and Russia is included in those countries who can come, the Russians can come and get a visa at the airport.”
Speaking of Pak-Iran gas pipeline, Khan said there had not been much progress on the project at the moment, which was because of the sanctions put on Iran by the United States. About the prospect of SCO participation being helpful in improving Pak-India relations, he said it is improving the relationship with all the countries in the SCO areas.
“Previously, Pakistan’s orientation was more towards the West. Now Pakistan is looking to diversify, find new markets or different relationships with those countries, which we had very nominal relationships [with] before. The SCO countries provide us [with] these fresh outlets and developing our relationship with these countries,” the prime minister said.
“And that means, of course, India as well because at the moment our bilateral relationship with India is, probably, at its lowest point. And, yes, it will be an opportunity to speak to the Indian leadership during this SCO conference.”
To a question about Russia’s mediation in reconciliation with India, he said Pakistan was looking for any kind of mediation because it believed that progress came with peace.
“And when you have tensions with your neighbours, it detracts from resources that could be spent on human beings. They end up getting spent on unproductive things like arms. And so we believe in peace with all the neighbours, especially with India. We’ve had three small wars with India, and they damaged both the countries. Because in the Indian subcontinent we probably have the greatest amount of poverty in the world,” Khan said.
“It is my belief that the money should be spent on getting people out of poverty like China got millions and millions of people out of poverty. And so our emphasis should be peace, resolving our differences through dialogue.”
He said Pakistan’s main difference with India is over Kashmir and if the two governments decide, the issue can be resolved. “But, unfortunately, we have not had much success from India so far. But we hope now that the current prime minister has one big mandate, we hope that he will use this mandate to develop a better relationship and bring peace in the subcontinent,” Khan concluded.