Top diplomats of Russia and Pakistan discuss Afghanistan, bilateral trade, and coronavirus vaccines in Islamabad.

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, left, and Pakistani FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi pose for a photo prior to their talks in Islamabad on April 7, 2021.
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, left, and Pakistani FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi pose for a photo prior to their talks in Islamabad on April 7, 2021. (AP)

Russia's foreign minister has said Moscow and Islamabad will boost ties in the fight against terrorism, with Russia providing unspecified military equipment to Pakistan and the two holding joint exercises at sea and in the mountains.

"We stand ready to strengthen the anti-terrorist potential of Pakistan, including by supplying Pakistan with special military equipment," Lavrov said on Wednesday, the second day of a two-day trip to Pakistan, after his meeting with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi.

Lavrov didn't give the details about the equipment Moscow will be providing to Islamabad. 

It's the first visit by a Russian foreign minister in nine years, part of a warming of frosty relations and comes as Moscow seeks to increase its stature in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. 

There, it has sought to inject itself as a key player in accelerated efforts to find a peaceful end to decades of war.

"(Pakistan and Russia) share convergent positions on several issues ... including peace and stability in Afghanistan," Pakistan's Qureshi said on Twitter after their meeting.

Both diplomats said Moscow and Islamabad were on the same page on how to achieve stability in a volatile region where war rages in Afghanistan and nuclear armed neighbours Pakistan and India struggle to find a peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute. 

READ MORE: Taliban, Russian officials discuss Afghan peace talks

Sputnik V vaccine 

As Washington reviews an agreement it signed more than a year ago with the Taliban and rethinks a May 1 withdrawal of its soldiers, Moscow has stepped up its involvement in Afghanistan, emerging as a significant player. 

Last month it hosted talks between the Taliban and senior government officials and Lavrov suggested another high level meeting could again be held in Moscow.

Lavrov arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday from neighbouring India, with whom Moscow has had a long and solid relationship. The apparent reset in Pakistani-Russian relations however is by contrast a recent phenomena.

In the 1980s Pakistan was a staging arena for anti-communist Afghan rebels, or Mujahideen, who were aided by the US to oust the former Soviet Union, which negotiated an end to a 10-year occupation in 1989.

READ MORE: Can Pakistan re-introduce itself to the world?

Russia-Pakistan bilateral ties 

Russia is also building a gas pipeline between the southern port city of Karachi and eastern Lahore. 

Pakistan's Qureshi said Islamabad will also buy five million doses of the Russian made Covid-19 Sputnik V vaccine, and expressed a desire to eventually manufacture it in Pakistan. 

"Of course the demand in the country is much higher, but we are limited only by the production capacity. We already established production lines in certain countries like India, Korea, Belarus and of course sent to help Pakistan to satisfy its demands for vaccines," a Russian top diplomat said. 

He said Pakistan also wanted Russian expertise to modernise its antiquated railway system as well as its energy sector.

The visit underlines the waning influence of the United States in the region, while Russian and Chinese clout grows, says Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the US-based Wilson Center.

"There's a good reason why this is the first Russian foreign minister visit to Islamabad for nearly a decade: Russia-Pakistan relations are on the ascent," he said in an interview, also noting a new 25-year development agreement between Iran and China.

Pakistan also is a key player in China's Belt and Road Initiative — a massive, cross-continental infrastructure development project aimed at expanding China's commercial connections globally.

"America will soon be ceding important real estate to its top rivals," said Kugelman. "That's the cost of an impending US withdrawal from the region. But with the US intent on pulling back, it is seemingly a cost it is willing to bear."

READ MORE: Russia holds inter-Afghan talks to pressure for ceasefire, peace deal

Afghan instability

Russia is concerned about Afghan instability spilling over into central Asia as the United States seeks to extricate itself from a war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, which Pakistan has for years been accused of supporting.

Pakistan denies that.

"A common concern is the situation in Afghanistan," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Lavrov's visit to Pakistan.

"We look forward to an early finding of a constructive solution in order to end the civil war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan through agreements on the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of the Taliban movement."

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies