ISLAMABAD - It was 27 years ago when I visited Moscow and met Russian intellectuals and policymakers. We discussed and exchanged views on Pak-Russia relations. They asked for a suggestion to improve their relation with Pakistan for which I suggested that they should develop strong ties in terms of defence cooperation. Answering another question regarding how and what should be the way to develop the cooperation, I suggested that defence equipment exchange can bring the two countries closer to each other and military helicopters can be the first step up the ladder. It was just an informal discussion but when I look at the national day reception hosted by the Russian Ambassador Alexey Y Dedov, it was a pleasure to see a positive and fruitful outcome of my suggestions and proposals where the Defence Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Asif was the chief guest and many generals in uniform were also present to celebrate the National Day of Russia. Last year, the first-ever joint military drill was held in Pakistan which was also a historic event between the two countries. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit is going to be held on June 8 and 9 in Astana, Kazakhstan which will open a new era of political and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Russia.

Dedov would always be remembered in the history of Pak-Russia relation as during his tenure many positive developments have taken place between the two countries. He is a phenomenal and an intelligent ambassador with an impressive memory. Dedov at the entrance of the hall was welcoming every guest with his name which was very pleasant.

The world famous writer on public relations Dale Carnegie wrote in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” that the best way to make more friends is by remembering and calling them by their name as everybody likes to be called by his own name.

Most of the ambassadors in Islamabad attended the reception but special attention was given to CIS countries. The Ambassador of Kazakhstan Bakhytbek Shabarbayev, Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan Erik Beishembiev, Ambassador of Tajikistan SherAli Jononov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan Ali Alizada, Ambassador of Uzbekistan Furkat A Sidikov and Ambassador of Turkmenistan Atadjan Movlamov sat on the stage. The Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong replied to a question that the Chinese President Xi Jinping would attend the SCO summit on June 8. It is a Chinese tradition that the country president always attends the summit, he added.

The French Ambassador Martine Dorance was the charm of the diplomatic reception with her pleasant personality, impressive presentation and most importantly her influential way of communication. She told that the French President Emmanuel Macron has successfully completed his first foreign visit to Germany. He has also been to Brussels to attend the Nato conference where he had a successful meeting with US President Donald Trump and nowadays he is engaged in the G7 summit in Italy. The Sri Lankan High Commissioner Maj Gen (R) Jayanath Lokuketagodage is a good friend of Pakistan. Sri Lankan and Pakistani armies have a deep-rooted cooperation. Pakistan Army has supported Sri Lanka in the past to curb terrorism. Lokuketagodage informed that last week, 40 members of Sri Lankan tourist delegation visited Taxila and Takht Bhai in Pakistan. The high commissioner was of the opinion that there is a great potential for religious tourism from Sri Lanka to Pakistan and we should work together to promote it.

Turkmenistan Ambassador Atadjan Movlamov informed that the 5th Asian Games would be held at Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan from September 17-27 with a focus on indoor and martial arts that will become a milestone event in country’s history and evoke a wide response in the world.

Azerbaijan Ambassador Ali Alizada informed that 2017 was declared as the year of Islamic solidarity in the country by President Ilham Aliyev and the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games with the participation of athletes from 54 Muslim countries were organised successfully in Baku.

The Afghan war, initiated in 1979, was actually to stop Russia from reaching the warm waters, that is Karachi and Gwadar ports, but now China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not only the completion of the Chinese dream to reach the warm waters and Gwadar but it will also create connectivity to central Asia and Russia. The SCO summit on June 8 is the climax of the regional connectivity and cooperation.

I propose that a direct air link between all the SCO counties should be given priority and in this regard, an initiative should be taken by Chinese Airlines as the development of infrastructure of roads and railway links are time-consuming and long-term air link projects can be the most beneficial and quickest way to link the SCO countries. It will only require mutual cooperation between SCO countries to make necessary measures in this right direction and introduction of soft visa policy for easy movements among these countries will work as a catalyst towards the development of economic and trade relations between the SCO countries. 

–The writer is a freelance contributor