Islamabad: Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is set to visit Russia this month, signalling the possibility of a marked shift in Pakistan-Russia ties marred by the Cold War rivalry.
Official sources said Kayani would make the "historic trip" in the second week of September, marking the beginning of a new phase of otherwise troubled ties. He is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart and also President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, reports The Express Tribune.
Kayani`s visit is being seen as a significant development as it comes just weeks before the Russian President undertakes his first-ever visit to Islamabad in early October.
"We have turned a new page in our relationship with Russia. It is a major shift," said a senior official at the Foreign Ministry.
Pakistan and Russia had remained bitter cold-war rivals in the 1980s when Islamabad joined the US-led alliance, which defeated the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
However, relations have shown gradual improvement in recent years with the two countries seeking to bury their bitter past.
However, some experts have warned that Afghanistan may become a new battleground for regional and international players in the wake of this realignment, fearing that if Pakistan-Russia ties are about "strategic advantages and disadvantages”, it will have negative implications for the Afghan endgame, the paper said.
A 30-member strong Russian ministerial delegation will also visit Islamabad on September 09 for a joint inter-governmental commission meeting. The meeting is part of preparations for the upcoming visit by the Russian President to Pakistan, it added.
Moscow has shown interest in investing in the expansion of Pakistan`s Steel Mills and has also signalled its willingness to fund the Iran gas pipeline project, whose fate hangs in the balance because of US sanctions on Tehran.