*ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Russia will hold high-level talks in Moscow this week on a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan. *
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif will visit Moscow to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on February 20.
Russian Foreign Ministry official Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying: “We maintain an intensive political dialogue with Islamabad and maintain constructive interaction on international platforms, primarily, the UN.”
The foreign ministers are expected to focus on the role Pakistan and Russia could play in promoting political negotiations on ending the conflict in Afghanistan -- a source of regional instability.
Besides Pakistan, China, Iran and Central Asian states are also in support of Russia’s regional peace initiative for a political solution to the war in Afghanistan.
Asif and Lavrov will hold talks ahead of the Kabul Process meeting in the Afghan capital on February 28.
Former ambassador Ayaz Wazir said deteriorating relations between Pakistan and the US was one of the major factors of Islamabad-Moscow relations getting stronger.
“Pakistan and Russia do not want to fight the US but it is the US which considers Russia is a major threat and has also adopted a hostile policy towards Pakistan. Weeks after US suspended Pakistan’s aid, it is now leading a move to put Pakistan on a global terrorist-financing watch list with an anti-money-laundering monitoring group,” Wazir said.
“If the US harms Pakistan, we have the right to find other friends. Pakistan has already good understanding with Russia on the issue of Afghanistan. China, Iran, Turkey and Central Asian states also support the idea of peaceful solution to the Afghan problem,” he said.
Said Nazir Mohmand, a retired brigadier, opines that the US has adopted a ‘threatening posture’ towards Russia and Pakistan that is one of the main factors in Pakistan and Russia coming closer. “I think Pakistan is now on the path of strategic defiance against the US policies. Pakistan has already a trusted friend in the shape of China and its approach to boost relationship with Russia will have another alternative,” Mohmand said.
He said if the US suspends or ends military cooperation with Pakistan, the country could opt for military cooperation with these countries, adding that Russia has already provided four advanced attack Mi-35M attack helicopters to Pakistan.