RUSSIAN – PAKISTANI RELATIONS
Diplomatic relations between two our countries were established on May 1, 1948 through the agreement concluded in New York by Sir Zafrulla Khan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, and Andrei A. Gromyko, the First Deputy Foreign Minister of the USSR, and succeeded by a consequent exchange of the relevant notes. Shortly the Embassies of the USSR and Pakistan commenced their functioning.
In June 1949 the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, received an invitation to pay a visit to our country but could not avail himself of that opportunity due to a number of reasons, otherwise it could be a historical event, since, bilateral cooperation at that time had already been taking its shape. At the end of 1948 the first trade delegation from our country visited Pakistan. In November of 1949 representatives of the Union of Soviet Writers came to Lahore. During the first years after establishment of diplomatic relations trade between the USSR and Pakistan was carried on under single contracts. It was a genuine breakthrough when the parties signed the first intergovernmental trade agreement in 1956, granting most-favoured nation treatment to each other.
From the late 1950s summits and high-level official contacts had been taking place on a regular basis. In 1956 First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers Anastas I. Mikoyan visited Pakistan and took part in the events arranged on the occasion of proclaiming the country a republic. Officials of Pakistani ministers and agencies also visited the USSR. Among them was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who visited Moscow for the first time in 1960 in his capacity as the Minister of Fuel Power and Natural Resources.
At that stage as well as later on our relations endured ups and downs. For instance, in 1960 the American plane U-2 which took off from the airport in Pakistani Peshawar and made a reconnaissance flight over the Soviet territory created an unfavourable background. However, the incident did not gravely affect speedy development of bilateral cooperation in the 1960s when “realistic relationship” between the USSR and Pakistan started emerging. Presidents of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan visited Moscow: Mohammad Ayub Khan – twice, in 1965 and 1967 and Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan – in 1970. In 1968 and 1969 Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers Alxey N. Kosygin visited Islamabad. In the course of the visits a number of important agreements were signed paving the way for further progressive development of trade and economic ties. Agreement on Cooperation in Search and Prospecting the Oil signed in 1961, Agreement on Economic and technical Assistance to Pakistan in the Construction of a Steel Mill (1971) are to be mentioned among them.
The first bilateral Agreement on Cultural and Scientific Cooperation signed in 1965 became a notable landmark. Contacts between public characters and scientists of the USSR and Pakistan were found revitalized. In the midst of the 1960s Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations between the peoples of the two countries were established. The Pakistani Society was headed by the outstanding poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Laureate of the International Lenin Prize for Strengthening Peace among Peoples. Representatives of academic and creative circles’ intelligentsia of both countries formed a core of those organizations. Scholars of the Pakistani Studies’ Sector of the Institute of Oriental Studies under the USSR Academy of Sciences established in 1964 also vigorously participated in the activities of the Soviet Society.
The USSR played a pivotal role in the settlement of the armed conflict of 1965 between Pakistan and India. Both parties were offered our good offices with signing of the famous Tashkent Declaration in January 1966 crowning our mediatory role (Alexey N. Kosygin, Mohammad Ayub Khan and the Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri took part in the ceremony). That document laid the corner stone for normalization of relations between the two largest countries of South Asia and set good example of the settlement of complex interstate disputes.
New Pakistani-Indian armed conflict in December of 1971 somewhat embarrassed our relations, though as it had happened before, complications did not last long and in the 1970s bilateral cooperation got into its stride. Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhuto visited Moscow twice – firstly, as the President in 1972 and then as the Prime Minister in 1974. Delegations exchange visibly rose, legal and contractual foundation expanded. The volume of Soviet-Pakistani trade almost tripled in 1970-1979. Cooperation with Pakistan in the economic sphere, limited to the USSR assistance in geological prospecting of oil and gas fields until the end of 1960s, were diversified and considerably increased in the 1970s. It was with the assistance of our country when the construction of a steel mill began in Karachi in 1973, now being the flagship of the industry of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In the second half of the 1070s Soviet specialists constructed the biggest for that time Guddu Thermal Power Station, which was put into operation in 1980. By 1976 a medium-wave broadcasting radio station had been erected in the vicinities of Islamabad with the USSR assistance. The USSR continued to assist in searching oil, gas and other natural resources in the Pakistan’s territory. It is worth mentioning that nowadays there are quite a number of oil and gas fields under operation discovered by Soviet geologists.
With General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haque coming to power relations between our countries entered into hard times once more. Political contacts grew short and volume of trade, economic and cultural ties decreased. Heated and complex developments in Afghanistan involving both our countries, though on the opposite sides of the fence, could not but leave their negative imprint on the state of Soviet-Pakistani cooperation in the 1980s. Nevertheless, Soviet Union did not interrupt its assistance to Pakistan stipulated by the agendas by the agendas approved earlier. Thus, for instance, Pakistan Steel Mill, still remaining the largest industrial enterprise of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, launched its first products in 1982.
It was after the demise of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haque, Benazir Bhutto’s democratic government accession to power in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1988 and withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 when favourable preconditions for improving Soviet-Pakistani and since 1991 Russian-Pakistani relations appeared. Former Ambassador of the USSR and Russia to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1988-1993 Victor P. Yakunin recalls that Pakistan actually has been the first state to recognize Russia as a legal successor of the USSR.
However, regrettably, in the 1990s we failed to duly avail ourselves of the existing favourable opportunities. Thus, trade and economic interrelations between our countries considerably leveled down. Worsening of macroeconomic situation and beginning transition to market society in Russia objectively contributed to that. At the same time, political dialogue had been gradually gaining its momentum. Foreign Ministers paid visits to the other country. The Minister of Foreign affairs of the Russian Federation visited Islamabad in 1993 with his counterparts coming to Moscow in 1994 and 1997. In 1999 Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, visited Russia while the Russian parliamentarian delegation headed by the Chairman of the State Duma Gennady N. Seleznev visited Islamabad. Despite deterioration of the economic interaction, our country assisted with the completion of three phases of a major thermal power plant in Multan put into operation in the midst of the 1990s, lent its hand in ensuring the functioning of Pakistan Steel Mill as well as in its repairing etc.
The universal menace of international terrorism threating the world in the beginning of 21st century united many countries, including Russia and Pakistan, in their joint struggle with this major evil of the present. So, the new phase of the relations between our countries began.
In February 2003 Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan paid an official visit to Moscow. Speaking at the concluding press conference, the Head of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan among other things stated that “a new era of friendship” was coming up between two countries and both ones needed to “reinforce the good of the past and bury the bad”. Pervez Musharraf’s visit laid the solid foundation for further development of the Russian – Pakistani interaction during the latest five years. Visits to Pakistan paid by the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, Mikhail E. Fradkov (Head of our Government visited the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the first time in last 38 years), and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia in 2003 and 2006 became major events for bilateral relations. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan visited Moscow in 2004.
For recent years Russia and Pakistan have been maintaining regular inter – Parliamentary ties, having their state and public structures interacting and regions developing contacts. There have been bilateral Joint Working Groups on Counterterrorism and Other New Challenges to International Stability (three meetings held) and on Strategic Stability (four meetings held) established by our countries and functioning dynamically.
It was decided that the mechanism of the Russian – Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation would be launched. We hope that now the functioning will facilitate visible progress in the development of trade and economic ties including that ones in the fields of fuel and energy and communications engaging “OAO Gazprom”, “RAO UESR”, JSC “Russian Railways”.
It was an auspicious trend that bilateral trade between Russia and Pakistan has been significantly growing for recent years. If its volume amounted to 92 million US dollars in 2003, it was 411,4 million in 2006, 630 million in 2008 and over 400 million in 2009.
Russia attaches great importance to its relations with Pakistan, particularly taking into account the latter’s influence in South and South – Western Asia, which directly border southern frontiers of the CIS, and in the Muslim World, bearing in mind its significant role in the war against international terrorism. Our countries have been effectively and constructively cooperating within the UN and other international organizations. Mutual support granted to each other when the issues of accepting Russia and Pakistan as observers to the OIC and SCO accordingly were under consideration was an illustrative demonstration of the closer relations. Presently, our cooperation within those organizations is gaining momentum. It is a matter of deep satisfaction that the stands of Russia and Pakistan on a wide range of international problems including issues of peaceful crises settlement, formation of the multipolar world order, strengthening of the central role of the UN and consolidation of the international law principles in relations between states are similar.