Russia and Pakistan on Thursday signed their first military cooperation agreement ending years of discord over Islamabad's close military ties with the US and Moscow's defence cooperation agreement with India.
The military cooperation agreement would pave the way for exchange of views and information on politico-military issues as also issues related to strengthening of mutual trust and international security, Business Recorder reported.
Talking to Russian defence minister general Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoygu, who met him in Islamabad, prime minister Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan was keen to enhance its multi-dimensional relations with Moscow, including in defence.
He said it was heartening to see relations between Pakistan and Russian Federation grow over the past few years. He stressed that there was a need to increase bilateral trade between the two countries, which currently stood at $542 million, which did not correspond to their trade potential.
He called for investment by Russian companies, especially in the energy sector, to benefit from the business-friendly policies of the government.
Lauding Russia's support to Pakistan for full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Sharif said Islamabad was ready to further enhance cooperation with other countries of the region, through the forum to counter the dual challenges of terrorism and drug trafficking. Then two countries stressed the need for continuation of momentum gained during Moscow conference and expressed satisfaction over the convergence of views on most of international and cross-regional issues.
"During the meeting we agreed that bilateral military cooperation should take on a more practical orientation and enhance the combat capability of our armed forces," news agency TASS quoted Shoigu as saying after the meeting
Sharif has extended an invitation to Russian president Vladimir Putin to visit Pakistan, ITAR-TASS reported, adding that Sharif expressed hope that the president would respond to it.
Shoigu said he looked forward to preparing Russia Pakistan joint projects in the military cooperation sphere. He added that the commanders-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Navy and Ground Forces had visited Pakistan this year.
Shoigu may have been negotiating an important sale of Mi-35 transport helicopters to Pakistan, Yury Barmin, The Moscow Times quoted an expert on Russian arms sales as saying.
Russia approved the delivery of 20 Mi-35s to Pakistan in November, but the details still are being negotiated, "which is probably one of the reasons why Shoigu is traveling to Pakistan a week after this informal approval was issued by Moscow," Barmin said.
But more important than specific defense contracts are Russia's growing strategic interests in the region, driven by security concerns shared with Pakistan - such as instability in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US troops and counterterrorism and counternarcotics efforts.
Nonetheless, Moscow will play it safe to ensure that its moves do not anger India, Russia's main strategic partner in the region, said Pyotr Topychkanov, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
India last year purchased $3.8 billion worth of Russian arms - far ahead of the $981 million worth it purchased from the US, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Last year Russia's recorded exports to Pakistan were much more limited, valued at a mere $22 million, according to SIPRI. The total sum is somewhat higher than this, as Russia also sells arms to Pakistan through China.