Putin has no immediate plans to visit Pakistan: Russian envoy

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Islamabad, Mar 18: Vladimir Putin has no immediate plan to visit Pakistan as there were not enough "substance" for a trip, the first by a Russian President, the country's envoy here has said.

"The problem is that usually the purpose of the visit is not participation in ceremonies. The visit should have some substance," Russian Ambassador Alexey Dedov said at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), a leading think-tank, where he was delivering a lecture on Pak-Russia relations yesterday.

Vladimir Putin

"As soon as the substance is ready, we can discuss the visit," Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying. Dedov defined the substance as "signing of documents" for cooperation, "preparation of plans" for expanding ties and "declarations".

No Russian or even Soviet president has ever visited Pakistan. Putin had planned a visit to Islamabad in October 2012 for attending a quadrilateral summit between Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, but cancelled it at the eleventh hour.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was then hastily dispatched to Islamabad to explain the cancellation.

Lately, there were renewed talk of Putin visiting Islamabad after Russia agreed to invest in the USD 2 billion North-South gas pipeline project for carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Karachi to Lahore.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had invited Putin to inaugurate the pipeline. The ambassador rued the "unrealised potential" of the ties, but noted that Pakistan was "seen (in Russia) as an important and reliable partner with whom relations could be developed".

He cited the geostrategic position of Pakistan and challenges and interests shared by the two countries as the motivation for Moscow to work for better and stronger bilateral relations. Reports say Russia and Pakistan are also close to resolving a long-standing economic dispute that led to freezing of Russian assets worth USD 120 million in Pakistan.

A draft agreement has been initialled and a final accord is likely soon. In a landmark defence deal, Russia last year agreed to sell Mi-35 helicopters to Pakistan.

PTI

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