Sunday, April 11, 2021

Russia Again Eyes ‘Strategic Role’ In Afghanistan With The Help Of Pakistan & China – Experts

On his crucial visit to Pakistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has promised the country supply of special military gear and enhanced cooperation in the counter-terrorism domain.

The two countries will also be holding two joint military exercises at sea and in the mountains, signaling the dawn of a strong bilateral relationship.

The two countries have agreed to collaborate in economic, energy, and defense sectors during the visit of Russian FM on April 6-7.

This is the first two-day visit by a Russian foreign minister to Pakistan in about a decade, with experts believing that the two countries are ready to move their military and strategic engagement to the next level.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also said that his country aims to build “multi-dimensional relations with Russia” to enable regional stability and global security, during the delegation-level talks.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also met with the Russian FM and emphasized the “importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with Russia as a key foreign policy priority”.

Lavrov’s trip to Pakistan comes amid the looming deadline for the US to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, under an agreement Washington signed a year ago with the Taliban. “A common concern is the situation in Afghanistan,” a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

Russia says it is expecting a “constructive solution in order to end the civil war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of the Taliban movement.”

However, the Biden administration is reportedly seeking an extension of the deadline of withdrawing its troops from the country although Washington is keen to end its role in the region.

Russia wants to involve itself in the power transition in Afghanistan, with experts saying that Moscow’s ambition is to emerge as a key player in the region with the help of Pakistan, which plays a key part in the process.

“There’s a good reason why this is the first Russian foreign minister visit to Islamabad for nearly a decade: Russia-Pakistan relations are on the ascent,” says Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, as quoted by Associated Press.

He said the visit “underlines the waning influence of the United States in the region, while Russian and Chinese clout grows.”

While in Pakistan, Lavrov also met Pakistan’s powerful army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the two discussed matters related to deeper defense cooperation and military-to-military engagement.

With the US strengthening its military alliances with India, Russia has parallelly been growing closer to China while ignoring Indian concerns about its closeness to Pakistan.

The emerging shift in geopolitical dynamics has pushed Russia closer to Pakistan, with the two countries sharing common interests and similar strategic ambitions.

Pakistan foreign minister claimed he had also briefed Lavrov about the human rights situation in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir. While the Russian FM said Moscow was committed to a two-state solution in Palestine, he made no mention of Kashmir.

The Russian FM also discussed the opportunities in the energy sector with his Pakistani counterparts, with Lavrov saying that his country was discussing a new protocol on the Stream Gas Pipeline project. The construction work is expected to start as soon as the deal is signed, he told the media persons.

He also said Moscow was providing 50,000 doses of anti-Covid vaccine to the country and was aiming to provide 1,50,000 more to help Pakistan come out of the pandemic.

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