ISLAMABAD: The Russian ambassador, Alex Y. Dedov, emphasised the geo-strategic importance of Pakistan to Moscow because it plays an important role in maintaining peace in the region.
He said even when relations between the two states were strained, dialogue had never truly broken down.
Ambassador Dedov was speaking at an Oxbridge lecture on ‘The Russian Federation, Pakistan and the Region’, held at the Serena Hotel.
The envoy discussed the history of the two states in question, and their efforts to bring peace and stability to the region.
Mr Dedov said Russia was determined to bring peace in the region and that Pakistan was a key ally in this mission.
He added that Russia was not interested in forcing its policies on any country because “such policies can have a detrimental effect, the kind we have seen in the Middle East”.
The ambassador began his lecture by saying that Pakistan and Russia have always worked together.
He said while their relationship had its ups and downs, they had always come back to each other.
He said since 1991, when the Pakistan foreign minister visited Russia to the recent visit by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, the two countries always held ‘warm meetings’ to address their common problems.
He said both states are working on several projects together, including an anti-narcotics operation. “Our head of narcotics is a frequent visitor to Pakistan.”
The anti-narcotics quartet – Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Russia – signed an agreement in 2010 promising to stop the use and sale of drugs in the region.
Mr Dedov said: “We highly value our relationship and our common goals. Both countries want regional stability and prosperity.”
A question and answer session after the lecture saw the audience place considerable attention to the role of Russia in the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
The ambassador noted that a significant number of questions focused on the topic, and said that Kashmir was very important to Russia because it “involves two of our neighbours”.
He said: “We are striving for better bilateral conditions. Pakistan and India are about to become members of the Shanghai Corporate Organisation. We hope working together will be a good stimulus for them to start talking and solving the problem. We feel that many other joint projects should be started so that the two countries can leave their differences behind.”
Responding to a question on power development projects, Mr Dedov revealed that Russia had proposed many such projects to the Pakistani government, including a hydroelectric power project.
“We have given our proposals and now we are waiting for a reply from the Pakistani government. I believe we will have an answer in the coming three weeks,” he added.
At the conclusion of the lecture Oxbridge Secretary General Irshad Ullah Khan said that both countries had much in common and had been friends for a long time.
He recounted mistakes made in wars in the recent past, saying Russia had tried to stop such mistakes from occurring in Syria.
“The invasion of Iraq was a massive mistake because more people were killed by the invading forced than by Saddam. Huge mistakes were made in Afghanistan and Libya. The same mistakes were going to be made in Syria when Putin put his foot down and said ‘no more’. We stand by this man, to make sure Syria does not disintegrate like others have,” Mr Khan said.
Mr Khan claimed that India was a direct threat to Pakistan, telling the ambassador: “I will say that we have terrorists coming in from India. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has a huge hand in disturbances in Balochistan, southern Punjab and Karachi. They are trying to destabilise our country.”
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2015
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