Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has come out in full support of Pakistan’s stand on drone attacks, declaring that they violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any state and are unacceptable. His views that solution of Afghanistan’s issue be home grown also coincide with our own assessment of the situation. At a joint press conference he addressed along with his Pakistan counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, both he and Ms Khar expressed their countries’ keen desire to strengthen ties between them; rather, they felt that these ties were already on the upswing.

The dismay that the unexpected cancellation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit has caused among Pakistan’s political circles and even the general public has been somewhat allayed by the three visits that went ahead as scheduled. First, it was a high-powered delegation that came to Islamabad and signed memorandums of understanding about three important sectors of our economy: expansion and modernisation of Pakistan Steel Mills, cooperation in the Railways and in energy. Right on the heels of this delegation’s visit, COAS General Ashfaq Kayani flew to Moscow to confer with the Russian army top brass and the ruling politicians on the ways to develop defence ties between the two countries. While he is still there, Foreign Minister Lavrov, who is considered highly influential in the Kremlin, arrived and held meetings with Ms Khar and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on matters of common interest, which if pursued diligently would result in the strengthening of relations between Pakistan and Russia.

One would assume that the interchange of ideas on widening the scope of bilateral cooperation that these meetings have made possible would be helpful in lessening the strains that certain unfortunate historical events had created and bringing the two neighbouring countries closer. Yet, one would very much hope that the visit of President Putin takes place sooner rather than later to give a real push to these welcome developments. There have been speculations that the visit was put off following Indian intervention, maintaining that Pakistan was not a trustworthy friend, it is closely tied to the US and might betray Russia once again. Our leadership should, in their interactions with the Russians, assure them of our genuine desire to develop relations with Moscow and lessen reliance on Washington. The policymakers in Russia themselves realise that the geopolitical realities of today necessitate that the both bury the rancour of the past and sincerely work towards a lasting equation to their benefit. That would greatly help in the return of stable conditions not only in Afghanistan, but in the region as a whole. The present opportunity ought not be missed.