With greater engagement between Russia and Pakistan of late, His Excellency Russian Consul General Andrey V Demidov talks to Blue Chip about the strides made in Pakistan Russia relations and newly elected President Vladimir Putin’s upcoming visit to Pakistan scheduled for later this year.
What are your views on relations between Russia and Pakistan at present?
Andrey V Demidov: “In my view the relationship is going up now. Unfortunately in the past our relations were not very bright, there were problems and difficulties. But what is good is that while remembering the past, we try not to be hostages to the past, we are trying to develop bilateral contacts because in today’s world countries and people can no longer stay oriented on just one side, they should go in different directions.
My country is looking for wider relations with Pakistan. We have no political differences with Pakistan, nothing can stand between us. Our leaders meet on a regular basis. In 2011 our presidents met six times, this is very good and must continue. The Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar was in Moscow in February. She had very positive talks with our foreign minister Viktorovich Lavrov. Now Prime Minister Gillani has invited newly elected President Putin to come to Pakistan, this invitation was accepted.
We are expecting president Putin to come to Pakistan in September this year. I believe that this will be a landmark visit.”
What are your views on expanding economic ties between the two countries?
AD: “Any good political relations should have a follow up. Economic cooperation is crucial. Unfortunately our commerce remains at a modest level. We had a record high level in 2008 when the overall trade balance reached the volume of $600 million. After that the world financial crisis came and the volume dropped to $300 million; now it has come slightly up in 2011 when it reached $400 million.”
What are the challenges to developing trade and investment between Russia and Pakistan?
AD: “What hampers our economic development? Lack of direct transport links, we have no direct air link or sea link so if we bring in goods or commodities we have to look for alternative routes via third countries which makes it more expensive.
We have no direct banking communications: we have no Russian banks in Pakistan and no Pakistani banks in Russia. Unfortunately both countries are misrepresented in the media. We have to overcome the media stereotypes deliberately imposed by western media. Unfortunately, information about Russia is only coming from western media sources but be assured that western media is openly biased towards Russia.
How can we improve this situation?
AD: “We need people to people contact and we need Pakistani journalists to go to Russia and Russian journalists to come to Pakistan. When I meet Russian businessmen here, I always ask them about their impressions and they always say that what they saw is totally different from what they heard about Pakistan before coming here. We have to overcome this misperception. Those are the consequences of the Cold War when misperceptions were imposed by dominant forces.”
But now we have to cooperate and understand each other. In spiritual nature, Pakistan and Russia have very much in common: both countries have a long history, both countries have a rich cultural heritage, both have very hard working people. We have so much in common.”