Pakistan wants Russia to enter Afghan peace process

Pakistan's Defence Minister said on Saturday that his country wants Russia to get involved in the peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.

Islamabad: Pakistan's Defence Minister said on Saturday that his country wants Russia to get involved in the peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.

Khawaja Asif told the Dawn newspaper about the recent visit of Russian defence minister to Pakistan that saw the signing of defence cooperation agreement between the two countries.

"After US/Nato forces' withdrawal from Afghanistan, security would be a bigger challenge for Afghanistan and Pakistan wants Russian engagement in Afghan peace process," he said.

He also said improvement in ties between Islamabad and Moscow are not at the cost of relations with other countries.

"Russia is a great regional power and Pakistan cannot ignore it," he said.

Asif sought to downplay acrimonious ties with Russia in the past when Pakistan joined the western countries to defeat Russia in Afghanistan in 1980s, leading to fall of communism.

"We must forget what Russia did in the past and look forward to a new beginning in the region. Pakistan terms Russia and China's presence in the region as source of peace and stability and that is why all three are getting closer on strategic matters," Asif remarked pointing towards a major shift in Pakistan's foreign and security policy.

In a major breakthrough after Russia lifted arms sales embargo to Pakistan earlier this year, as Asif said that a "final go ahead" for the purchase of Russian MI-35 helicopter gunships has been given.

"The matter remained under consideration for many months now we have given Russians final go ahead for the purchase of these helicopters," Asif said.

The minister said that the gunship helicopters would be used in the ongoing war against terrorism by Pakistani security forces.

"Russia has moved up Pakistan in its category B from D for arms sales, which means that Pakistan can now buy weapons from Russian market," he said.  

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