Q1. On February 10 Russia celebrates the Diplomat’s Day. Would you please tell us more about the event?
A1. This holiday was introduced by a Presidential Decree in October 2002 to commemorate an anniversary of the establishment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. The date is closely connected with February of 1549 when the Tsar Ivan the Great (Terrible) set up the Posolsky Prikaz (Ambassador’s Department) which officially became the first foreign policy institution of Russia. Of course, Russian diplomacy has a much longer history and enduring tradition stretching far to the centuries of ancient times. It would be proper to mention that in 860 itself the “Treaty of peace and love” was signed between the Ancient Russian State and Byzantium which in fact led to the international recognition of Russia. In the year of 1720 Peter the Great reorganized the Ambassador’s Department into the Foreign Collegium and in 1802 a full-fledged Ministry of Foreign Affairs was formed under the Emperor Alexander I.
On this day we salute the prominent Russian diplomats and our veterans who had worked hard to lay a basis for success of modern Russia’s foreign policy. We also pay tribute to the acting diplomats who had proved by their work and high professionalism that diplomacy is one of the most important tools for safeguarding national interests and durable peace in the international arena. We recall our colleagues who have lost their lives on duty as the late Ambassador in Turkey A.G.Karlov assassinated in 2016. The Russian diplomatic missions abroad arrange various events in the official, cultural, sports spheres to enhance contacts, mutual understanding and cooperation with our foreign counterparts.
Q2. H.E. would you please outline the importance of exploring ways and means to further expand and diversify the mutually beneficial relations?
A2.Today Islamabad is an important partner of Russia. The significance of Pakistan is determined by its role in regional politics, its influence in the Muslim world and its geostrategic position. Our countries face similar challenges and threats to national security. Relations between our countries are on the upward trajectory.
Pakistan ranks high in the Russian foreign policy. We have been cooperating in various fields of interest. Both countries enjoy cordial relationship and our political dialogue increasingly intensifies. Enhancement of our trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan is also an important item of our agenda.
One of existing mechanisms of our bilateral interaction is the Russian-Pakistani Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation (IGC). Its latest 4th session was held in Islamabad on November 18-20, 2015. This year there should be the next 5th session of the bilateral IGC. The exact dates for this session haven’t been fixed as yet but the both sides are working on it. We consider the IGC as a very effective tool to explore ways and means for enhancing the bilateral relations and hope it will give a new start to our mutually beneficial cooperation.
Q3. Russia has immense expertise in heavy, electrical, mechanical etc. industry. What are the chances of cooperation in these sectors?
A3. The untapped potential is huge, particularly, in the sphere of energy. During the 4th session of the IGC we discussed a number of proposals on enhancing cooperation between the two countries in this sphere. Among them is an intention of the Russian company “Inter RAO-Engineering” LLC to participate in construction of a new gas fired power plant with approximate installed capacity of 600 MW in Jamshoro District. We also recommended the Russian company JSC “VO “Technopromexport” for project implementation of 1200 MW Guddu gas fired power plant, as well as the Russian company OJSC “Power Machines” for project implementation of the Dasu hydropower plant. But the most promising project, from our point of view, may be cooperation in the construction of the North – South Gas Pipeline from Karachi to Lahore. The Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak visited Islamabad on October 15-16, 2015, where he held bilateral talks with the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. In the presence of the Prime Minister of Pakistan the ministers of both countries signed an Intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in the construction of North-South Gas Pipeline. The project assumes the maximum use of technologies, materials, equipment and products produced in Russia, involvement of Russian research, design and construction organizations.
In continuation of our energy cooperation the Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russia Yury Sentyurin visited Islamabad twice this year (on July 29, 2016 and on October 5-6, 2016) to participate in a Joint Russian-Pakistani Coordination Committee established for monitoring the implementation of the Agreement on the North-South Gas Pipeline construction project.
Q4. What are the preferred areas of cooperation in shape of Joint venture between the two sides?
A4. All abovementioned areas (namely, energy, oil and gas sector, as well as information technologies) have good prospects for considering the possibility of creation joint ventures. Unfortunately, there is no joint venture between the two sides at present. However, we have plans to establish a special purpose vehicle for implementation of the Agreement on the North-South Gas Pipeline construction project.
Q5. Trade volume between the sides is not up to the mark. What steps need to be taken to foster the volumes of bilateral trade in the future?
A5. Enhancement of our trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan is also an important item of our agenda. Unfortunately, a trade amount of 396 million USD in 2015 apparently does not correspond to potential of economic cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. In January-November 2016 in comparison with the same period of 2015 a trade turnover between our countries has a slight increase by 1.8% (378.8 million USD), with export increased by 36.9% (122.8 million USD), while import decreased by 9.4% (256.0 million USD).
The major step to foster the volumes of bilateral trade in the future will be implementation the North-South Gas Pipeline construction project and the main thing in this regard will be conclusion the relative commercial contracts which allow to start the works on the project.
Q7. What is the outcome of Russian Business Delegation in the country? Are you satisfied with current development?
A7. In November 2015 over 80 Russian delegates from varied sectors, including officials, experts, private sector and representatives of the business community participated in the First Russia Pakistan Investment and Business Forum, which was held on the sidelines of the 4th meeting of the IGC. We hope that the practice of carrying out such Business Fora during meetings of the Intergovernmental Commission will be continued.
Of course, we are not satisfied with the current situation. Our trade relations are facing huge challenges. Businessmen of both countries have shown keen interest in each other’s sphere of work but various factors have been affecting these links. One of the biggest problems in this regard is the geographical distance that has hampered the task of enhancing the link between the two business communities. The other issue is existing financial counterclaims between our countries on compensation and freight payments of the Soviet period. Actually, the Russian legislation does not allow government loans to a foreign country, which has unsettled financial disputes with Russia.
We have the Russian Trade Representative office in Islamabad that makes the most to promote business-to-business ties between entrepreneurs of the both countries.
Q8. How many Russian companies are working in the country and in which major sector?
A8. Only a very few Russian companies are working in Pakistan now. We may mention LLC “RT-Global Resourсes” in the sphere of energy and JSC Rosgeologia in exploration activities and prospecting for oil and gas.
Q9. Do both countries have any kind of defense cooperation? Can we say that due to joint military exercise the relations of both countries are going in fast track?
A9. In November 2014 Minister of Defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu paid an official visit to Islamabad. He met Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and Minister of Defence of Pakistan Mr. Khawaja Muhammad Asif. During that visit, the Agreement on military cooperation between our countries was signed.
The Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif paid a substantial visit to Russia on June 14-18, 2015.
The previous year we have seen an active continuation of our military interaction. The Minister for Defence of Pakistan Khawaja Muhammad Asif participated in the 5th Moscow Conference on International Security on April 26-28, 2016. On the sidelines of that event, he met with Minister of Defence of Russia Sergey Shoigu and they had a constructive discussion on strengthening military cooperation between the two countries. Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman as well as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mahmood visited Moscow on July 19-23, 2016 and August 23-27, 2016, respectively.
The issue of counterterrorism cooperation is very high on the agenda of Russia and Pakistan. In 2015 the contract was signed for purchase of four Mi-35 helicopters that are going to be used in Pakistani armed forces in the counterterrorism missions.
The first Joint Russian-Pakistani Tactical Exercise “Friendship-2016” was held in the mountainous area at the special forces training center in Cherat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province from September 24, 2016 till October 10, 2016. It was aimed at strengthening counterterrorism cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. According to one of scenarios, joint groups of two countries moved to the area of simulated warfare. After the reconnaissance operation, the servicemen eliminated the simulated illegal armed formations. The soldiers also performed combat firing at targets, which were imitating infantry, automobile vehicles and infrastructure of the simulated enemy.
We continuously highlight the importance of further consolidating cooperation between Russia and Pakistan in fighting the source of terrorism funding – drug trafficking. Two Russian navy ships namely “Yaroslav Mudry” and “Vice-admiral Kulakov” visited Karachi on October 16-21, 2014 and December 4-9, 2015, respectively to participate in the Russian-Pakistani joint anti-drug exercises in the Arabian Sea – “The Arabian Monsoon – 2014” and “The Arabian Monsoon – 2015”.
We hope for future fruitful continuation of joint exercises and believe that they will contribute a lot to our bilateral cooperation as a whole.
Q10. Would you please elaborate the socio-economic prospects of Russia in 2015 and 2016?
A10. According to data of the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, the volume of GDP in the third quarter of 2016 at current prices reached 22 189,6 bln roubles (approx. 352,216 bln USD). Estimation of the number of population in Russia was 146.3 million people as of January 1, 2017. Level of unemployment in the Russian Federation was 5.4 % as of November 2016. Number of unemployed (using methodology of the ILO) was 4.1 million persons. Industrial Production Index in December 2016 as of December 2015 was 103.2% and as of November 2016 – 107.4%.
Q11. What is the current state of banking and financial industry in your country?
A11. Banking and financial industry in Russia has a very strong position. According to the figures of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation (as of December 31, 2016) international reserves amounts to 377.7 billion of US dollars (of which foreign exchange reserves were 317.5 billion and gold was 60.2 billion).
Q12. Would you please outline the salient features of your foreign policy?
A12. The basic principles, priority areas, goals and objectives of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation are stipulated in the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on November 30, 2016. Among them the following can be mentioned.
Russia conducts an assertive and independent foreign policy guided by its national interests and based on unconditional respect for international law.
Russia’s foreign policy is open and predictable. It is characterized by consistency and continuity and reflects the unique role Russia has played for centuries as a counterbalance in international affairs and the development of global civilization.
The Russian Federation’s foreign policy is aimed at creating a stable and sustainable system of international relations based on the generally accepted norms of international law and principles of equal rights, mutual respect and non-interference in domestic affairs of States, so as to ensure solid and equal security for each and every member of the global community.
The UN should maintain its central role in regulating international relations and coordinating world politics in the 21st century, as it has proven to have no alternative and possesses international legitimacy. Russia supports the efforts aimed at strengthening the UN’s central and coordinating role.
Russia attaches great importance to ensuring the sustainable manageability of global development, which requires collective leadership from the major States that should be representative in geographic and civilization terms and fully respect the central and coordinating role of the UN. To these ends, Russia has been expanding its ties with its partners within the Group of Twenty, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Republic of South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), RIC (Russia, India and China) alongside other organizations and dialogue platforms.
Russia attaches due importance to further strengthening the SCO’s role in regional and global affairs and expanding its membership, and stands for increasing the SCO’s political and economic potential, and implementing practical measures within its framework to consolidate mutual trust and partnership in Central Asia, as well as promoting cooperation with the SCO member States, observes and dialogue partners.
Russia views combating international terrorism as an essential government task and a key priority for international security.
Russia facilitates the resolution of regional conflicts by political and diplomatic means through collective action by the international community, believing that such conflicts can only be resolved through inclusive dialogue and negotiations involving all sides rather than by isolating any of them.
Q13. What is the secret of small, happy and prosperous country, Russia?
A13. Someone should rely on himself and work hard to achieve success in everything.
Q14. What is your policy on Syria conflict?
A14. Since the outbreak of the Syria crisis, Russia has always advocated for its political and diplomatic resolution – by launching an inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue. All of our actions are strictly in line with international law.
In the course of the operation by the Russian Aerospace Forces and Navy in Syria, which is being conducted at the official request of the UN member state’s legitimate authorities, we have inflicted serious damage on terrorists who have struck deep root in the country, among other things, due to massive support from the outside.
At the same time, we have always believed that military methods alone cannot untie the Syrian knot. Our main objective is to give the Syrians a sense of perspective, hope for a better future in a free secular state where all ethnic and religious groups live in peace and accord. An inclusive intra-Syrian negotiating process should be launched, based on the provisions of the June 30, 2012 Geneva Communique, UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and decisions of the International Syria Support Group.
We are helping create favorable conditions for that, supporting the process of “local ceasefires” and working closely with the armed opposition through the Reconciliation Centre in Hmeimim. The Syrian Government itself in cooperation with various political forces continues to make consistent efforts to achieve national reconciliation.
It is imperative to eliminate the terrorist threats in Syria as soon as possible, stop the bloodshed, move the settlement process to the political track, and provide a solution to humanitarian problems and humanitarian aid delivery. Russia has used every opportunity to help civilians, delivering humanitarian supplies there despite the threats from the so-called local council to stop aid convoys, open fire on them, and so on.
We strongly believe that the Syria conflict can only be settled by the Syrians themselves. In this connection, Russia again urges our Western and regional partners to abandon attempts at geopolitical engineering in the region, respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and work together to achieve the main objective: restoring peace in this state.
Q15. H.E. what is your message to people of Pakistan?
A15. May God bless Pakistan with welfare and prosperity, Russian-Pakistani friendship zindabad!