ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday assured Russian President Vladimir Putin of Pakistan’s commitment to cooperate with Russia on the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline project as the two leaders discussed expanding bilateral economic and energy cooperation.
PM Khan and President Putin spoke over the phone about the progress in relations between the two countries, the regional situation, Islamophobia and justification of blasphemy by some Western countries as a form of freedom of expression.
Incidentally, the talks took place as India began installing the first Russian-supplied S-400 ‘Triumph’ surface-to-air missile system on its borders with Pakistan. India plans to deploy five S-400 regiments.
The Prime Minister underlined that Pakistan’s bilateral relations with Russia were on an upward trend with greater focus on trade and economic ties and energy cooperation. He urged the government to complete the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline project at the earliest. Reiterated the resolution,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Mr Khan tweeted: “We discussed ways to move forward on trade and other mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries.”
Imran, Russian President discuss expansion of bilateral economic, energy cooperation
According to the Kremlin: “Discussions focused on the development of Russian-Pakistani relations in various areas, including the trade, economy, energy and humanitarian sectors, as well as combating the spread of coronavirus infections.”
Relations between Islamabad and Moscow have been on the upswing for almost a decade and a half due to their growing geopolitical convergence, but apart from a few gestures they still don’t have much concrete progress to celebrate. Many believe that economic ties can provide the necessary foundation for the development of trust and ultimately the desired strategic partnership.
Cooperation between the two countries could provide much-needed impetus in the construction of a 1,100 km long gas pipeline connecting Karachi with Lahore at a cost of around $2.5 billion. Negotiations on the project, formerly known as the North-South Gas Pipeline, began in 2015 and after several delays, the two sides are expected to sign their shareholder agreement in February.
There is a belief in Moscow that the delay in closing the deal was because some quarters in Islamabad opposed the project, which had clear geopolitical implications, apart from the obvious economic benefits for both countries.
During the conversation, PM Khan again invited President Putin to visit Pakistan.
The visit of Mr. Putin was long awaited. The Russians say it is being delayed because it is not expected to yield any concrete results. The gas deal is likely to remove that hurdle. The Kremlin said the two leaders “agreed to continue their contacts”.
PM Khan praised President Putin for criticizing incidents of blasphemy in Western countries.
The Prime Minister tweeted that he had called on President Putin “primarily to express his appreciation for his emphatic statement that freedom of speech cannot be an excuse to abuse our Prophet PBUH. He is for his beloved Prophet PBUH.” He is the first Western leader to show sympathy and sensitivity to Muslim sentiments.
Mr Putin said at his annual news conference on 23 December: “Why offend the Prophet Muhammad? Is this an act of artistic freedom? I don’t think so. violates the rights of the people, which leads to other, even more radical and extremist manifestations.
The Kremlin’s statement on the talks praised Mr Khan’s statement, saying he underlined the widespread support in Pakistani society and the Muslim world in general for the Russian president’s statements.
Mr Putin told Mr Khan that the Russian Federation has historically been a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state where, according to the Kremlin, people following different religions, including Islam, traditionally coexisted and interacted. Were.
Published in Dawn, January 18, 2022