LAHORE - Punjab and Tatarstan yesterday agreed to promote cooperation in different sectors including skill development, petro-chemicals, technology, industry, mines, agriculture, livestock, tourism, sports and others.

These agreements were inked during a delegation level meeting of the two sides. The Tartastan delegation was led by President Rustam Minnikhanov while Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif headed that of Punjab.

The meeting also constituted a joint committee to identify different sectors for promoting cooperation between the Punjab province and the Republic of Tatarstan. Tatarstan is a federal subject (a republic) of the Russian Federation and its capital city is Kazan.

The area of the republic - 68,000 square kilometers - is almost one-third of that of Punjab’s 205,344 square kilometers. The population is even far more less, only 3,786,500 in contrast to Punjab’s estimated population of more than 101,391,000.

In their addresses both the leaders condemned terrorism in the hardest terms and said it is quite incorrect to link terrorism with Islam, a religion which teaches peace and tolerance.

Tatarstan president commended the development vision of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. He felt a pleasant surprise to see Shehbaz speaking in Russian langue and commended his command on it. He said that Lahore has welcomed him with open arms; and “we will promote regional cooperation on solid grounds”.

President Rustam Minnikhanov said it was absolutely incorrect to link terrorism and fanaticism with the religion of Islam. “Islam teaches peace and brotherhood. Islamic norms are based on brotherhood, tolerance and love. We will work united to eliminate terrorism; and added that they are with Pakistan in her sincere efforts for the elimination of terrorism.”

The president, while talking to the CM, said that they were awaiting for his visit to Tatarstan, and it is hoped that important developments would be made for extending cooperation in different sectors during the visit.

Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, on the occasion, said he is heartily pleased over the visit of the president of brotherly country Tatarstan to Lahore.

“Russian Federation and Pakistan enjoy cordial relations, and we should work jointly to further promote them. Punjab Government and Tatarstan would promote cooperation in different sectors on permanent basis. We are happy that our brothers have visited us, and your visit would promote relations between the Punjab Government and the Republic of Tatarstan.”

He said that tremendous potential was available for cooperation in agriculture, livestock, skills development, mines and other sectors in the Punjab. “We would be happy if cooperation is promoted in these sectors with Tatarstan and the experiences of Tatarstan are benefitted upon.” He said he would visit Tatarstan in June.

Talking about Islam, the CM also said that it was incorrect to link Muslim countries with terrorism. Islam is a religion of tolerance, peace and harmony. There is no room for terrorism and extremism in Islam. Islam gives equal rights to all the human beings without any color or creed, he maintained.

Shehbaz said that terrorists and fanatics are savages and killers of humanity. They have no color or religion. Terrorism is an international issue, which requires coordinated efforts to deal with it.

Provincial ministers Sheikh Allaud Din, Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Ch Sher Ali, Jehangir Khanzada, Naeem Akhtar Bhaba, Adviser Umer Saif, senior officials as well as deputy prime minister of Tatarstan, besides other members of the delegation, were present on the occasion.

President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov also held a one-on-one meeting with CM Shehbaz Sharif to discuss matters of mutual interest, including promotion of bilateral relations in different sectors.

The two sides also held a delegation level meeting. Tatarstan president and other members of the delegation commended Shehbaz’ command over Russian language and said they were pleased to see the CM speaking Russian language fluently.

President Rustam appreciated the steps for fast-track development in the Punjab and said Punjab is the most developed and prosperous province of Pakistan. The credit goes to the chief minister, who has worked relentlessly for the development of the province, he said.

Rustam added that Pakistan is rapidly progressing under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He said that it's his first visit to Pakistan, and the love and affection given to him in Lahore is unforgettable.

Punjab-Tatarstan Business Forum was convened at a local hotel which was attended by President Rustam Minnikhanov as chief guest.

Addressing the forum, Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif said Pakistan and Russian Federation have economic relations for the last many decades; and CPEC provides opportunities to the take them to new heights, he said.

The chief minister invited Tatarstan investors to invest in Pakistan, especially in Punjab, and highlighted the vast business scope and strong infrastructure which Punjab provided in this respect.

“The investors of Tatarstan should sit together with the investors of Pakistan and the Punjab, and develop a roadmap for promoting bilateral economic relations,” he proposed.

As a result of $54 billion investment being made under the CPEC, trade and economic activities have been boosted in the region, and it can be helpful in promoting Pakistan’s economic relations with Tatarstan and Russian Federation, he held.

Serious efforts have been made to overcome the challenges of terrorism, fanaticism and energy crisis. Insha'Allah, with the completion of energy projects, the decade-long loadshedding in the country, would come to an end from the beginning of next year, and there would be light everywhere.

Shehbaz said the visit Tatarstan president would begin a new era of trade and economic relations between the two countries. “Tatarstan has good expertise in e-governance, information technology, agriculture and livestock and we want to get benefit from the same, he added. He said Punjab is largely taking benefit from the IT in different departments.”

Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, in his address, said that he is pleased to see the wonderful progress in the Punjab. He said Tatarstan and Pakistan have economic relations which are need to be further promoted. He said that cooperation with the Punjab government, in different fields, would be enhanced to work collectively.

Provincial Finance Minister Ayesha Ghous Pasha presented the address of welcome and gave a detail of facilities for foreign investors as well as the opportunities of investment in the Punjab.

The head of Tatarstan’s trade agency, Ms Taliya Minullina spoke about prospects of cooperation in different fields. President Lahore Chamber Abdul Basit and representatives of Tatarstan Chamber signed an agreement of cooperation.

Similarly, an MOU was signed for cooperation in IT. Punjab Information Technology University VC Dr Umar Saif and the head of Tatarstan Information University also signed an MOU.