LAHORE – After a prolonged period of ‘hibernation’ in international relations, Russian Federation is flexing its muscles to assume a proactive role in world politics, especially in the South Asian region.President-elect Vladimir Putin, who is currently serving as prime minister of Russia, will embark on his official visit to Pakistan after taking his oath scheduled for May, making it the first-ever visit by any Russian president.According to diplomatic sources, the two foreign offices are giving final shape to this visit and a precise date is expected next month.Pakistan would be on top of the list of countries Putin would be visiting this year after he assuming the office of president, as part of Russian efforts to initiate an assertive role in world affairs yet again.During their interaction presidents of Russia and Pakistan would review Iran-Gas Pipeline Project (IGPP) in terms of its financing besides finding other avenues of mutual cooperation.Sources in the Foreign Office told TheNation that issues relating to renovation and expansion of the Pakistan Steel Mills, upgrading of the Railways tracks, and projects in the energy and education sectors are also expected to come under discussion.Russia would certainly like to enhance its influence in the region since US has totally fallen into the lap of India. Pakistan’s tilt towards Russia too seems to be the outcome of this new-found understanding between India and the US as the latter has decided to assign the former a significant role in Afghanistan setting aside its old ally Pakistan.Both Russia and China have already endorsed Iran’s right to nuclear technology and have opposed US sanctions against Iran. And closeness between the Russia and Pakistan is being considered essential to maintain balance of power in the region. With China already on Pakistan’s side, the warmth between Islamabad and Moscow would certainly set the balance.So if Pakistan is looking for finding a new ally in the form of Russia after successive betrayals by the US on different occasions, the latter is also seeing the visit as a window of opportunity to regain its lost influence in the south Asian region following its defeat in Afghanistan, and with India – once its trusted ally – hobnobbing with the US.Putin’s visit to Pakistan is coming at the heels of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s visit to Russia in February this year. Earlier, President Zardari visited Moscow in August 2010 when he went there to participate in the four-nation summit between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Russia. The Quadrilateral Summit focused on cooperation in regional security and economic development between the countries.As a result of President Zardari’s meeting with Russian President Medvedev, Pakistan and Russia agreed to convene the inaugural session of the Russia-Pakistan Inter-Governmental Commission which was held the following month to further streamline economic cooperation between the two countries.