Pakistan

RAWALPINDI – Pakistan is negotiating defense industry cooperation with Russia in the areas of aviation, air defense systems and anti-tank missiles, spokesman for the Pakistani Army told Sputnik in an interview yesterday.

“We are having the aviation, we are having the air defense, we are having the anti-tank domain, which we are negotiating. And that will be positive negotiations,” Major General Asif Ghafoor said.

The spokesman declined to clarify which items were on the agenda of the talks, but noted that Pakistan was open to various offers.

“Nothing is out. Anything and everything, which is possible to be purchased by Pakistan, will be done,” Ghafoor said.

Ghafoor further noted that Pakistan would welcome Russia’s role in mediating the recently inflamed tensions between Pakistan and India. “We would welcome any third-party mediation, which can bring peace in the region. And Russia is more than welcome.”

Defence cooperation between Russia and Pakistan has been on the rise. Russia has agreed to train Pakistani officers and has sold attack helicopters to the South Asian country in recent years. The two Asian countries have held two join counter-terror drills since 2014. At the same time Pakistan-US cooperation waned, with Washington cutting military aid and suspending training programs.

The official said Pakistan valued Russia’s role in the Afghan settlement process and recognised Moscow’s importance in regional processes.

“We greatly value the relevance and importance of Russia in the region, especially what role Russia has lately played toward the Afghan reconciliation… Russia looks toward balance of power and multipolarity in the world. We value Russia’s voice as the voice of reason, and we would love if Russia, being a powerful country, plays its role which enables bringing peace in South Asia and beyond. And we expect that Russia will do it, as the efforts in fact being undertaken by Russia are generating good results,” the DG ISPR said.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated last month, after the Pakistani military shot down two Indian warplanes in the disputed region of Kashmir, responding to an earlier airstrike by Indian aircraft against what New Delhi said was a camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad group, considered terrorists by India and located on the Pakistani soil across the so-called Line of Control, separating India- and Pakistan- controlled areas of Kashmir.

The Indian airstrike came after a deadly attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad on the Indian paramilitary police force in Kashmir in mid-February. While India has accused Pakistan of supporting the militants and having a “direct hand” in the incident, Pakistan, in turn, has rejected the allegations.

Russia has been actively engaged in resolving yet another regional issue – the peace process in Afghanistan. On February 5-6, the Russian capital hosted the intra-Afghan conference on the peace settlement, which was attended by a number of Afghan politicians, representatives of Afghan diaspora in different countries and a Taliban delegation. The Afghan government’s delegation was absent from the talks.