Islamabad: Pakistan and Russia on Thursday signed a military cooperation agreement to deepen their defence ties and vowed to translate their relationship in "tangible" terms during the first-ever visit of a Russian defence minister in 45 years.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu's visit to Pakistan comes at a very critical juncture as US-led NATO forces are drawing down from Afghanistan by the end of this year.
"The signing of the Military Cooperation agreement between the two significant countries of the region is a milestone. Both sides will translate this relationship in tangible terms and further strengthen military-to-military relations," said Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif without elaborating on the agreement.
He said strong ties between Pakistan and Russia will help in building stability and prosperity in the region.
"We shared views on the scope of pressing problems of international and regional security. First of all, this concerns Afghanistan. Our assessments of the situation in that country are mainly close or coincide," Shoigu said.
The visit by the Russian Defence Minister comes against the backdrop of reports that Moscow had given go-ahead for the sale of MI-35 helicopters to Pakistan, which is interested in purchasing up to 20 helicopters.
The last visit took place as far back as 1969, when USSR Defense Minister Andrey Grechko made a trip to the country.
A defence source told Dawn that Russia was unlikely to make any major announcement during Shoigu's trip because of President Vladimir Putin's visit to New Delhi next month.
Both sides expressed hope the agreement will pave the way for exchange of information on politico-military and other issues.
"Both Pakistan and Russia stressed on continuation of momentum gained during Moscow Conference and expressed satisfaction over convergence of views on most international and trans-regional issues," said Pakistan's Defence Ministry.
The two defence ministers held detailed discussion to improve cooperation in defence.
Asif during his meeting with Shoigu appreciated Russia's overtures in enhancing bilateral relations.
Shoigu appreciated the skill and expertise of Pakistani armed forces in the war against terror.
He also appreciated Pakistan's defence production stating Pakistan has taken a leap in manufacturing defence equipment.
"The world community not only praises but wants to do business with Pakistan now," said Shoigu, who is accompanied by a 41-member delegation. He also called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
India's decision to enter into tighter embrace with the US has prompted Russia to rethink its defence relationship with Pakistan.
Pakistan's former ambassador to Russia Khalid Khattak said the visit reflected improvement in ties.
"We are entering a phase of defence collaboration in procurement and production. It's important," he said.