By Arif Qoreshi
Islamabad: Despite the concerns of United States Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will travel to Moscow tomorrow.The chief military spokesperson confirmed on monday that Gen Kayani would undertake the ‘historic’ trip to Russia from October 3 to 6.
Reliable sources are of the opinion that there are chances of Pakistan and Russian joint military exercised in the future and if it decided it will be a breakthrough.
Pakistan and Russia remained bitter cold-war rivals in the 1980s when Islamabad joined the Western alliance, led by the United States, to defeat the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
The director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, said that it would be the first-ever bilateral visit by any Pakistan army chief to Russia, marking the beginning of a new phase in the ties between the two countries.
During his three-day stay, Gen Kayani is expected to meet top Russian military and civil leaders to discuss options for expanding military-to-military cooperation between the two countries, according to Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa.
Pakistan and Russia remained bitter cold-war rivals in the 1980s when Islamabad joined the Western alliance, led by the United States, to defeat the former Soviet Union in Afghan jihad.
This will be the Pakistan Army chief’s first visit to Russia since 2009, when he had made a trip at the invitation of his counterpart.
Sources said Kayani’s previous visit had helped prepare the grounds for a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and then President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010.
However, relations have shown gradual improvement in recent years with the two countries seeking to bury their past.
Col Gen Alexander Postnikov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Ground Forces, visited Pakistan in May 2011. This was the first visit by a senior Russian military commander to Pakistan in many years.
Iran Pakistan gas pipeline project is reason to cancel the visit of president putin visit of paskistan
President Putin was scheduled to visit Islamabad in the first week of October but the trip was put off due to ‘unspecified reasons’. Some reports also indicated that President Putin postponed his visit because of Islamabad’s reluctance to award a lucrative contract for the multibillion-dollar Iran gas pipeline project to Russia’s state-owned Gazprom.
The two sides have been discussing the project for months but the deal is yet to be finalized, as Russia intends to finance the pipeline without entering the competitive international bidding process.
Russia had made a proposal in this regard when Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited Russia earlier this year. Pakistani officials have said such a step would violate the rules of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority
There are many reasons circulating in the diplomatic circles among them some also pointed fingers at the Indian lobby, thought to have pressured Moscow into canceling the trip but reliable sources confirmed the security was the biggest reason.
Both have targets according to the defense sources, Pakistan is keen to seek Russia’s cooperation to upgrade some of its military hardware, including Mi-17 helicopters and T-80UD tanks. Pakistan also wants to exchange military-to-military exchanges with Russia.
Russia also wanted to seek the intelligence cooperation of Pakistan after the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan.
A counter terrorism mechanism is also expected to be discussed during the task.
The writer is an editor of thefortress.com.pk