Pakistan has decided to accord approval to a Russian request for using the Gwadar port in Balochistan for its exports as Moscow has also shown its willingness to be part of the $46-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Formal authorisation to Russia to join the CPEC will be given soon, and both countries will enhance cooperation in economic, defence and intelligence matters.
While talking to journalists, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is on a two-day visit to Turkmenistan, welcomed the Russian decision to join CPEC. He confirmed the move and told journalists that a formal agreement in this regard will be signed shortly.
It is possible that the agreement will be signed when President Vladimir Putin visits Pakistan as per his schedule in 2017.
Pakistani media reported that the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, made a secret visit to Pakistan and met senior military officials. This was the first visit by a Russian intelligence agency’s head to Pakistan in 14 years.
Matters to enhance bilateral cooperation in Intelligence and defence were reportedly discussed in the meetings. The head of the Russian intelligence agency reportedly made a request about his country joining the CPEC, which was accepted by Pakistan, the reports said. Pakistan granted Russia access to warm waters via the Gwadar port, which has been developed with Chinese aid and is key to the CPEC.
This move comes after Iran and Turkmenistan also announced their willingness to use the Gwadar port for trade to have access to warm waters.
Local analysts have described the move as significant. The increase in cooperation with Russia comes at a time when Pakistan’s relations with the US are deteriorating, they said.
Russia and Pakistan held their first joint military exercise in September. About 70 soldiers from a mountain motorised rifle brigade of Russia’s Southern Military Division took part in the exercise.
Russia lifted a long-standing arms embargo and signed a landmark military cooperation agreement with Pakistan in 2014. Last year, the two sides finalised a deal for four Mi-35 attack helicopters – a move that angered India. Since then, reports have suggested that Pakistan is interested in acquiring more military gear from Russia, including Su-35 combat jets.