During the summit meeting, the two leaders will review the entire bilateral relationship, including energy cooperation. They will also have a broad exchange of views on major regional and international issues, including Islamophobia and the situation in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani prime minister’s visit comes amid a Russian-Ukrainian conflict and diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions. However, Pakistani officials are optimistic that Prime Minister Khan’s visit would help establish a new partnership with Russia. “The visit will open new avenues of cooperation” for the two countries as “our relations with Russia have gradually improved,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said. The visit to Russia comes after Imran Khan’s “successful visit” to Beijing, strengthening Pakistan’s ties with regional powers, analysts said.
Pakistan and Russia recently announced moves to boost trade cooperation as Moscow aspires to expand its economic footprint in Asia and Islamabad seeks energy suppliers to meet its economic goals. Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Russia has seen an increase reaching a record high of $790 million in 2020.
The two countries recently agreed to develop cooperation in economic, energy, defense, industrial modernization, railways and aviation, science and technology. Islamabad and Moscow have also signed a strategic venture called the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline project. The 1,100 km long gas pipeline will ensure the delivery of 16 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from the LNG terminals of Karachi and Gwadar together with those of Lahore. The $2.5 billion project is expected to be completed by 2023.
The business community hopes that the Pakistani Prime Minister’s visit to Moscow will open up new opportunities and benefit both sides. “Pakistan offers an open route to Russia and access to markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia via the Arabian Sea,” Gohar Zia, director of Maxtelz Logistics, told Gulf News.
“With free trade zones at key locations and modern bonded storage facilities at the ports of Karachi and Gwadar, Pakistan is poised to become a logistics and supply chain hub, which offers enormous advantages to its business partners”.
The rail link would be crucial in boosting connectivity and economic development, he said, citing Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) which recently resumed operations after a decade. Zia urged officials in Islamabad and Moscow to consider “launching a rail freight service linking Russia to Pakistan via Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Iran, as part of a multimodal transport approach , which will reduce the transit time to 10 days instead of 45 days by sea”. ”
Pakistan and Russia renewed their efforts to deepen their relationship and started a “new chapter” after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Islamabad in April 2021 – the first by a Russian foreign minister in near of a decade. The Islamabad-Moscow security partnership has been growing since 2014, when the two signed a defense cooperation agreement. The two countries have gradually expanded their military cooperation with exercises and military exchanges. Pakistan and Russia also share an identical approach on Afghanistan to curb the terrorist threat.