PM Khan’s Russia visit to strengthen bilateral ties: Russian ambassador

ISLAMABAD - Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Danila V Ganich has said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Russia is an important one and the focus of the talks between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President would be to further strengthen bilateral relations and to give impetus to partnership.

“During the meeting between the two leaders, every issue, from trade and economy to international matters would be discussed,” said the Russian Ambassador said this in an exclusive interview with The Nation and Nawa-i-Waqt on Monday.

The Ambassador came to the offices of The Nation and Nawa-i-Waqt and remained there for almost two hours. He was warmly welcomed by Chairperson and Publishing Editor Rameeza Nizami and Editor The Nation Salman Masood to the offices of The Nation and Nawa-i-Waqt. Mateen Haider, special correspondent The Nation, and Itrat Jaffery, correspondent of Nawai Waqt, were part of the interview panel.

Giving details about the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Russia, he said it’s wrong to say that any leader from Pakistan is visiting Russia after 23 years, in fact former President General Pervez Musharraf and former President Asif Zardar visited Russia and held meetings with Russian leadership.

“The visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan is not sudden....it’s a planned visit so it has high value”, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said.

He also said that the North Stream Gas Pipeline project in Pakistan is strategically important, but as far as Russia is concerned it has done its job, and an agreement was signed in 2015, now executing it is the job of Pakistan. To a question, the ambassador said both the countries have excellent cooperation in defence and military domain and cooperation would continue in the years to come. He said both the militaries conducted joint exercises of their special forces in Russia last year and now these exercises will be conducted in Pakistan this year.

Ambassador Danila V Ganich said there is high level military contact between the two countries which is satisfactory.

Afghanistan:

On Afghanistan, Ambassador Danila V Ganich agreed with the Pakistan’s position that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating and Russia is persuading Washington to release the frozen assets of Afghanistan, which Kabul needs urgently to prevent the crisis from deepening.

“We understand that the situation in Afghanistan is very complicated and there is a humanitarian catastrophe. We understand that many people are facing hunger. Many people are suffering from extreme cold. We definitely understand that. But, what we are doing is together with Pakistan, we are trying to intensify an international value to help against, or through different means. One is persuading Washington to release the funds and there are different assessments”, he said. We are anticipating different formats to raise this issue including the format of Russia, Pakistan, China and the United States. We call it the extended “Troika”. Troika in Russia means three.

Ambassador Danila V Ganich made it clear about Russian financial assistance and said, “We sent some humanitarian assistance but, I understand this is limited. It’s not that extensive. This is what we are doing. But at the same time, we proceed from the understanding that we were not the occupying force this time. This is a fact that the US was the occupied force. It had been there for more than 20 years. So, this is their primary responsibility. Of course, we will try to facilitate further but we have our own problems. We have our own humanitarian issues. We are being threatened with harsh economic sanctions.

“We got our own war or at least confrontations. This is not the confrontation with Ukraine, this is the military confrontation with military infrastructure, I would say. Because what we don’t want is a hostile military infrastructure at our borders which makes it an existential threat,” Ambassador Danila V Ganich said.

On the issue of terrorism emanating from Afghan soil, the Ambassador said, first of all, we have to get engaged, stay engaged with the Taliban, which is a must. “Because they are a real power and we got to interact with them. I do know that certain interaction is underway and is pretty intense.”

“Then, we have to consolidate our positions in the adjacent border areas. This is what we are doing, strengthening the adjacent borders along the Durand Line. And we are enhancing interactions with the Central Asian Countries. So, we keep our military presence where we used to have, like in Tajikistan”, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said.

When asked to comment on CPEC, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said as far as I know, we are trying to harmonize different regional projects, when we interact with Pakistan. This is a bilateral project. But, you could call it if we build for example, a transport infrastructure, let us say railroad from Mazar-e-Sharif to Kabul to Peshawar.

The ambassador termed CPEC as a bilateral project between Pakistan and China, however, CPEC is part of the One Belt One Road initiative and could be extended to Central Asia and Russia.

“What if we also build some road, which will be connected to Russia and Uzbekistan? Will it be considered as a part of CPEC or not? We may say that this is a bilateral Russian-Uzbekistan project, but in reality, it would be part of CPEC or - One Belt One Road initiative. So, my answer is we consider interaction with Pakistan in different spheres as bilateral. But bilateral projects are in fact, maybe part of this whole idea”, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said.

When asked about any possible investment from Russian companies in Pakistan, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said if something is beneficial, you don’t even have to advertise. They know somehow immediately and definitely, if there is something beneficial, our investors would invest”.

Ukrainian crisis:

When asked to comment on the Ukrainian crisis, Ambassador Danila said, first of all, I would like to underline once again that what we are dealing with is the military infrastructure of NATO.

“We don’t want NATO on our borders and we presented our draft of a bilateral agreement with the US which would contain guarantee that their infrastructure would not be at our borders which means that Ukraine wouldn’t be a NATO member,” he said.

He termed this as the core of disagreement and the Russian president said that if our demand is not met, we would respond with all necessary means, including military and technical. I don’t know whether at some point, it will translate into a military action because we will not wait forever and we cannot allow Ukraine to be part of NATO.

”I don’t know how but this is something existential and we hope that we will find a diplomatic solution to this”, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said.

He said but what we have been told by now is that we will continue with admitting new members to the alliance.

“They are saying this is non-negotiable and basically, this is very strange because I don’t know what the reason is for NATO’s existence in the first place. Our Warsaw Treaty is no longer. Why would they keep this military alliance? Against who? And if they are saying that this alliance is defensive, why wouldn’t they give us this written guarantee that they are not going to attack Russia. That they guarantee Russian security”, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said.

Danila V Ganich says Imran Khan, President Putin will discuss trade, economy | Both states have excellent coop
in defence, military domain and it will strengthen further | Russia persuading US for release of frozen funds of Afghanistan

Russia doesn’t want NATO on its borders

We have to stay engaged with Taliban to control militancy

He also said that the Biden Administration is looking weak right now. And they are having midterm elections this year and they may lose in Congress. So, they need something tangible and most tangible results would be prevention of a full-scale European war. There is another option, to provoke a large-scale European war and win. But, I don’t know how they could win. Even considering the fact that we got different extent of importance of what is going on? For America, it is just a small space on the map. For us, this is an existential threat. If something is existential, you don’t think how many mobile phones you have, you think how to survive.

When asked to comment on the talks to revive Iranian nuclear deal, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said Russia hopes that this agreement is concluded.

“And I think that the US withdraw from that agreement. And subsequently US sabotage this agreement, because they have threatened sanctions to other participants...it has damaged reputation of Washington very seriously. Because, how can we count on a worth, if it’s withdrawn just in a couple of months,” Ambassador Danila V Ganich said.

When asked about the sale of possible military equipment to Pakistan, Ambassador Danila V Ganich said not that I know of. “I haven’t heard of it, if something was in the pipeline. I do know that we provided helicopters. I suppose that was four years ago. They were four or five MI-35 helicopters.”