ISLAMABAD    -   Pakistan and Russia are ready for part­nership as the two cold-war rivals get closer – burying the hatchet. This week’s meeting between Prime Minis­ter Shehbaz Sharif and Russian Pres­ident Vladimir Putin sealed the com­mitment for moving forward together without playing bloc politics. In the past, Pakistan had been a part of the US bloc against the then Soviet Union as the two powers engaged in a marathon cold war. The Sovi­et Union ultimately collapsed and Russia replaced the former USSR. For several years after the cold war and the collapse of the USSR, Russia struggled for re­covery and has now re-emerged as a global power.

As part of the comeback as a global influencer, Russia has re­mained in contact with Pakistan to forget the bitter past and look forward to the brighter future together. Russia has also been close to China, another power­ful country challenging the US supremacy.

This week, Putin mentioned that pipeline gas supplies to Pa­kistan were possible and part of the infrastructure was al­ready in place. The Sharif-Putin meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organi­sation summit in Samarkand, in Uzbekistan, is a continuity of ef­forts for closer ties between the two countries.

A PM’s House statement re­flected the positivity: “The Prime Minister reaffirmed Pa­kistan’s commitment to work closely with Russia to further expand and strengthen coop­eration between the two coun­tries across all areas of mutual benefit including food security, trade & investment, energy, de­fence and security.”

The two sides also agreed to convene the next meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commis­sion (IGC) in Islamabad at an early date.

The long-delayed gas pipeline vital to the south Asian coun­try’s economy - the Pakistan Stream gas project, also known as the North-South gas pipeline - is to be built in collaboration with Russian companies.

The two countries had agreed in 2015 to build a 1,100 kilo­metres-long pipeline to deliv­er imported Liquefied Natu­ral Gas (LNG) from Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast to pow­er plants in Punjab. The pipe­line’s designed annual capacity stands at 12.4 billion cubic me­tres (bcm), with the possibility to be increased to 16 bcm.

The project, originally due to be launched in 2020, was de­layed after Russian had to re­place the initial participant, which was hit by Western sanc­tions. Sharif said in recent weeks that his government was also in­terested in buying wheat from Russia if it was offered at bet­ter rates. His predecessor, Im­ran Khan, had visited Moscow in February, the day Russia in­vaded Ukraine. Khan alleged the visit angered the United States, which he later accused of con­spiring to topple his govern­ment. Washington denies the al­legation.

Bilateral cooperation between the two countries dates back to the Soviet times. Karachi Steel Mills, major thermal power fa­cilities at Muzaffargarh, Mul­tan-II and Guddu were built by Soviet Union. 

Besides, Soviet Union also helped Pakistan in the estab­lishment of Oil and Gas Devel­opment Corporation Ltd. (OG­DCL) and in the development of agriculture sector of Pakistan.

Both the countries have simi­lar stakes in durable peace and stability in their common neigh­bourhood and harbour shared aspirations for regional devel­opment and prosperity.

The upward trajectory of bi­lateral relations is being main­tained through sustained high-level interactions and strong institutional mecha­nisms. Pakistan’s accession to the SCO, as a full member, has infused a new energy to the ties with the Russian Federation - who supported Pakistan’s inclu­sion. The year, 2017 was par­ticularly important year from political point of view for both countries as significant meet­ings took place including bilat­eral meetings between the then Prime Minister of Pakistan and the President of the Russian Federation in Astana on 9 June 2017 and Prime Ministers of both countries in Sochi on 30 November 2017. 

Both the meetings were held on the sidelines of high-lev­el SCO meeting. Besides, there have been eight visits from Pa­kistan at the ministerial levels including Ministers from For­eign Affairs, Defence, Water and Power, Science and Technology, Industries and Production, De­fence Production, Commerce and Textile and National Health Services in 2017.

The Pakistan-Russia defence cooperation has also steadi­ly increased and it is marked by frequent high-level contacts between the two countries. Un­der the landmark ‘Defence Co­operation Agreement’ signed during the Russian Defence Minister’s visit to Pakistan in November 2014.