Prime Minister Imran Khan will be the first Pakistani head of government to visit Russia in more than two decades, according to one of his senior cabinet members, as he plans an official visit to the country this month.
During the Cold War, after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the two countries developed a bitter rivalry. During that time, Pakistan backed the US and assisted Afghan resistance factions with guerrilla warfare.
In recent years, the two countries have attempted to broaden and deepen their ties, with Russia lifting a decades-long arms embargo imposed on Pakistan in 2014.
Nawaz Sharif, the last Pakistani prime minister to visit Moscow in 1999, maybe remembered.
“Our relations with Russia have gradually improved,” said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah
Mahmood Qureshi in a statement. “Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited Prime Minister Imran Khan to come and visit Russia, and PM Khan will travel to Moscow after this month.”
“I trust our relations with Russia are for the better relation,” he added.
Pakistan’s increased diplomatic engagement with Russia is said to be part of the country’s effort to diversify its foreign policy.
Last year, the two countries formally signed an amended intergovernmental agreement for a flagship pipeline project to be carried out by Russia that would connect Pakistan’s Punjab province to the port city of Karachi.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Pakistan in September 2021 and held extensive talks on bilateral relations, regional and global issues.
“In a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Islamabad, the Foreign Minister [Shah Mahmood Qureshi] outlined that strengthening relations with the Russian Federation was an important foreign policy priority for Pakistan,” a statement circulated by the Pakistani foreign office said after Lavrov’s visit.