Pakistan and Russian Federation are two important countries of Asia and with entering into cordial, friendly and trustworthy relations with each other; both states could ensure an era of peace, progress and prosperity in the region. The Pakistan-Russian relations have been marred by unfounded misunderstandings, which to a considerable extent still haunt the minds of foreign policy makers in both countries. In the changed international scenario, Pakistan and the Russian Federation should come up with renewed zeal and zest, forgetting Cold War bitterness and should actively cooperate with each other in economic, social and science and technology sectors. These were observations expressed by scholars, intellectuals and participants of a two-day seminar on, "Identifying the Irritant in Pak-Russian Relations and Possible Remedial Measures" at the Area Study Centre (Russia, China and Central Asia) University of Peshawar, Pakistan on October 24-25, 2002. The Hanns Seidel Foundation organized the seminar in collaboration with the Area Study Centre.
Dr.Azmat Hayat Khan, the Center's Director, and Dr. Andreas Rieck, Resident Representative of the HSF in Islamabad, introduced the seminar. Mr. Rieck noted that his Government would facilitate and support each and every initiative aimed at enhancing cooperation between the two nations in all fields. He noted that in the coming discussion on the topic concerned many sore and sweet aspects would come forward but he highlighted that it would be beneficial if the participants would concentrate on the positive aspects of future dialogues between Pakistan and Russia. He also said that Afghanistan as a source of irritation has disappeared and now in the newly emerged situation there is much scope for the improvement in Pakistani-Russian relations.
Dr. Sohail Khan of the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs then stated that 9/11 had provided both the countries a chance to understand each other. He mentioned several projects in which Russia has extended its support to Pakistan, and discussed the Indian factor in Pakistani-Russian relations. Dr. Pervez Iqbal Tareen of the ASC pointed out Russo-Indian relations as a major impediment in establishing active bilateral relations between Pakistan and Russia. He called upon policy makers in Pakistan to take full benefit of Russian expertise in oil, gas, heavy machinery and other industrial sectors.
Yuri Kozlov of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, speaking on the prospects for trade and economic interaction, identified metallurgy, heavy machinery, electricity, shipping and communication as the sectors in which Russia could extend support to Pakistan. He said that Russian Federation was already handling a number of projects in Pakistan like the modernization of Karachi Sea Port, and that Pakistan has a big market in Russia for textile and leather.
Colonel (retired) Muhammad Yahya Effendi, a well-known Pakistani scholar, focused on the historical nature of the irritants between the two countries. He also referred to the Great Game between Czarist Russia and the British Indian Empire during the 19th century. Yuri Patapov of the Russian embassy Islamabad in his speech declared the June 2002 Almaty meeting between President General Pervez Musharraf and President Putin as a landmark in Pak-Russian relations, and noted that Russia and Pakistan are coming closer to cooperation in various fields.
Dr. Artium Rudnitsky of the Russian Embassy, Islamabad, pointed out that Russia was keen to participate in all efforts at establishing peace in Afghanistan. He was of the opinion that the economic progress of the countries of the region is depended upon the Afghanistan situation.
Dr.Azmat Hayat Khan, in his paper spotlighted the importance of geo-economics in the era of Globalization. He elaborated that building oil and gas pipelines from central Asia to India through Pakistan would be a big economic boom for Pakistan and that could only be achieved through the cooperation of Russia. In defense cooperation, Russian hardware is more economic and suitable for local terrain. If Russia use its influence with India to solve the Kashmir problem, not only both Pakistan and India would benefit, but also it would reduce tension in the whole region. He explained that in solving the Afghan issue, the Russian Federation should be taken into confidence and give full participation in the peace process.
Mr. Shamim, Peshawar Bureau Chief of the Daily Nation, said that both countries have suffered a lot from involvement in Afghanistan, and that meaningless involvement has paved the way for the flourishing of terrorism. He further added that Pakistan and the Russian Federation should help in the eradication of warlordism and in the restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
In the end of the seminar, Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan put forward recommendations for policy. Confidence Building measures should be adopted so that Russian policy makers and scholars study the Pakistani system, social structure of society and the functioning of Pakistan's Government. There is a need for more interaction and visits by scholars and experts so that a strong bridge is built between the two nations. Pakistan and Russia should move closer not only on the intellectual and scholarly levels, but organized tours of journalists, agricultural experts and tourism should be undertaken as well. There is a need to create a favorable image in both countries of each other by promoting people-to-people understanding. Both countries should develop economic relations to mutual advantage and for regional development and prosperity.
Dr. Azmat also added that Pakistan should strive for membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Russia and the Central Asian region have always, since time immemorial, played a vital part in the cultural, historic and academic life of the subcontinent, and he expressed hope that they will do so in the future too.
Dr.Zahid Anwar, Assistant Professor, Area Study Center, University of Peshawar, Pakistan.