Pakistan-Russia strategic realignment

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Pakistan-Russia strategic realignment

ISLAMABAD: Russian Deputy Minister for Energy is scheduled to hold a meeting with Pakistani officials on February 9 (Thursday) to review progress on the North-South gas pipeline project as part of the fast-track preparations to pave way for the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Pakistan in May this year for inauguration of this multi-billion project.

"Pakistan intends to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin for inauguration of 1,100 km long North-South gas pipeline project in which Russia plans to invest $2 billion to connect Karachi's liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals with those in Lahore," sources said.

An official of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources said that it has been decided that the officials of Pakistan and Russia would from now onwards hold meeting on monthly basis to review progress on the North-South gas pipeline project.

The sources said the project is likely to be implemented under the ‘build, own, operate and transfer’ model. Once laid down, the pipeline will be owned and operated for 25 years by the company awarded the project contract before being handed over to the Pakistan government.

A senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who requested anonymity told this correspondent that given the fast changing economic and political landscape at regional as well as global level Pakistan now gives high importance to its mutual ties with Russia that is also in a gradual process to open up new avenues of cooperation, leaving behind the bitter past memories between the two countries.

The official said ongoing rapprochement between Pakistan and Russia in last couple of years involved lifting of arms embargo against Pakistan, willingness to sell four Mi-35M helicopters to Pakistan, first-ever mutual special drills in the mountainous terrain, visit of the Pakistan's defence minister to Russia, support from Russia to Pakistan to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and provision of access to Russia to use Gwadar Port for trade activities.

Russia's pragmatic leader Vladimir Putin sees new political and economic developments as an opportunity to unfreeze ties with Pakistan without compromising Russia's strategic partnership with India, the official said.