ISLAMABAD - All eyes were on Prime Minister Imran Khan when he flew to Moscow last week on an unprecedented bilateral visit amid the Ukrainian tension.

Washington and India were especially following the visit as they saw Pakistan ‘changing’ camps. Pakistan denied this assumption saying it will join no camp and try to have close ties with all countries.

Some analysts even warned of a China-Russia-Pakistan partnership. Thus, the crisis over Ukraine has only served to consolidate the Sino-Russian ties.

This puts India between a rock and a hard place. While India and China had managed to paper over their differences for many years, over the last couple of years, ties have moved towards open confrontation on the borders.

Although, India has a legacy relationship with Russia, sentiments have little place in international relations, India finds it difficult to forget the support extended to it by the Soviet Union through tough times in Indian history.  Moreover, Russia is one of India’s largest defence suppliers.

Significant location of Pakistan in the region attracts major powers. Change in geopolitics with opportunities and choices leads regional states towards decisive shift in their foreign policy.

Although Pakistan and Russia have no history of good relationship but the strategic realities gave birth to the current shift which is much positive for both Islamabad as well as Moscow.

Pakistan and Russia have a past of mistrust but today, both are welcoming the idea of building and stimulating strategic relationship.

Pakistan wants to build better relationship with Russia to reduce dependency on United States. Islamabad wants to prove to Washington that it has as another strategic option if there any tension happens between Pakistan and United States.

Washington never likes Moscow’s influence in Islamabad. There are differences between Pakistan and the United States over drone attacks.

According to some analysts American hegemony is near to end in the region and Pakistan does not like to become overly ally of United States and dependent on it.

In fact, the increasing relationship between India and America motivates Pakistan to look for new friends and alliances.

Pakistan also has an eye on Russian military equipment supply and technology assistance. Pakistan wants to gain much commercial incentive from Russia for example Karachi to Lahore Pipeline and Russia is also interested in renovation of Pakistan Steel Mill. According to some reports Russia may join CASA-1000 energy project providing electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the other hand, today Russia is interested in Pakistan by its strategic location being very next to Afghanistan and Central Asian states.

Islamabad and Moscow first time noticed each other in 2009 when Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan floated to promote regional security and economics.

This quadrilateral idea held three meetings and did not take off due to cancelation of Putin’s expected visit of Pakistan for the fourth meeting in 2012. Then President Asif Ali Zardari had visited Russia in 2011 and then Army Chief also visited Moscow during 2012.

There is a strong potential of Pak-Russia relations in steel production, communication, and space technology and energy sector.

Although Pakistan and Russia are being close but Pakistan will never jeopardize its relations with Washington. Washington is providing military aid and financial assistant to Pakistan but getting tension by Pak-Russia romance.

There have however, been no big announcements regarding Imran Khan’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said during meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan presented its viewpoint over the situation developing between Russia and Ukraine. “I think that the PM talked about it at the right place at the right time,” he contended.

Qureshi said the recent meetings with Russian officials signify Pakistan’s commitment to forging long-term ties with Moscow. He predicted that Pakistan-Russia cooperation will multiply.

The FM said the Moscow visit was “constructive” adding “our focus was on wide-ranging consultations on bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest reflecting the positive trajectory of Pakistan-Russia relations.”

The FM said Pakistan reaffirmed the importance of Pakistan-Stream Gas Pipeline as a flagship economic project between Pakistan and Russia and also discussed cooperation on prospective energy-related projects. “We are committed to forge a long-term, multidimensional relationship with Russia,” he added.

He said through a long-term agreement, Pakistan also desired to purchase gas from Russia via Afghanistan to meet its future needs. He said Russia also wanted to establish a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Gwadar.

Arsala Khan, Honorary Consul General of the Russian Federation in Peshawar, said Russia and Pakistan have come closer in the recent years and the PM’s visit highlighted the growing friendship.

“There have been comments about the timing of the visit. We should know the visit was pre-planned and Pakistan did well to fulfil its commitment to visit Russia. The two sides are on the highway to friendship,” he added.

He said the two sides have agreed on several points and the public will soon see the results. “Some people want results in days which in unfair. We will see things go forward. This was a very positive visit,” he maintained.

Former Ambassador M Shahid said Russia is a hub of energy and they have proven their efficiency in energy sector by the test of time. “Pakistan has vital opportunity to get benefit from the expertise and resources of Russia to cut short energy crisis. The gas pipeline projects in collaboration with Russia will now be expedited that will help Pakistan to meet the energy needs at domestic level,” he said.

Shahid said that collaboration and cooperation between the two countries should be looked upon beyond energy sector. “The visit of PM Imran Khan holds strategic importance at the regional and domestic level. After the withdrawal of US troops, the Afghanistan’s question has been haunting the South Asian region as well as Russia. Thus, the resolution of Afghan issue is in our mutual interests,” he commented.

Defence analyst Lt Gen (Retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi said the recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Moscow was of utmost importance.

“Pakistan wants to extend the scope of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) to Central Asian states. Moreover, Russia wants access to the warm waters of Indian Ocean to boost their trade by reducing time lapse. This visit was properly planned to strengthen bilateral relationship between Islamabad and Moscow. Russia is helping Pakistan in energy sector that will boost our industrial output and exports eventually. Russia wants to trade with ease in our region but the Afghan conundrum is the only hindrance,” he said.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Khan said in his address to the nation that his visit to Russia was necessary amid crises as Pakistan needs to import wheat from Russia.