Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Russian envoy Alexey Dedov, on Wednesday, presented a united front for cordial ties between their countries. They expressed this optimism while speaking at an international conference, titled, ‘Pakistan – Russia Strategic Relations: Prospects for Cooperation,’ held under the auspices of an Islamabad-based think tank, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI). The convention was also addressed by a number of local and Russian speakers. SVI took this initiative to explore the prospects of expansion in Pak-Russia ties in view of the changing regional and international geopolitical environment; warming economic bilateral ties and their growing military cooperation. Foreign Secretary Janjua hailed Pakistan and Russia for enjoying an “emerging partnership” with “tremendous scope.” She noted that the growth in ties was underpinned by progressive institutional relations, summit-level exchanges, military-to-military linkages and their strategic cooperation for peace in Afghanistan. She praised Russia for the role played in de-escalation of the recent Pak-India crisis as it offered to mediate between the two neighbours. Janjua believed a change in the configuration of Pak-Russia relations had ensued from Moscow’s nuanced policy towards South Asia. Russia’s policy for peace and stability in the region was said to be quite balanced. Ambassador Dedov joined her in mentioning the upcoming high-level bilateral engagement in Kyrgyzstan in June, to be held on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit. Dedov noted that Pakistan’s membership to SCO had advanced the potential of cooperation between the two countries. Mentioning the institutional processes between the two countries, he said the high-level political dialogue was leading to deeper ties. Meanwhile, the economic cooperation was said to be driven by the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. A meeting of the commission had been planned for the last quarter of this year, he maintained. The envoy said that energy formed the core of Pak-Russia’s economic collaboration while giving an overview of the developments related to the North-South gas pipeline. He said that Russia had completed its internal procedures in the wake of the inter-governmental agreement signed in 2015 and was now waiting for Pakistani partners to complete similar measures on their side. “We are now at the stage of agreement from the implementing agency,” he added. Dedov regretted that the unsettled issue of mutual financial obligations, as well as a lack of connection between corresponding banks, were impeding this economic cooperation. SVI President, Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema also gave a presentation on the occasion. He made note of the progress made by Pakistan and Russia in building their diplomatic and political relations; their mutual cooperation for peace in Afghanistan; military ties and the strategic stability dialogue. Dr Cheema said the two countries had been negotiating the trade of military hardware for a few years yet made little headway, so far. He pointed out that close ties between Moscow and Delhi in addition to the S-400 missile system deal worth five billion dollars and a 10-year lease agreement for the new Russian SSN (nuclear-powered general-purpose attack submarine) concerned Pakistan. Despite a strong desire from leaders of both countries to take the bilateral ties forward, he believed, the actual room available for progress was still not clear. Dr Irina Serenko from the Institute of Oriental Studies at Moscow’s Russian Academy of Sciences asserted that Russia considered Pakistan as one of the major countries for the realisation of its vision of Euro-Asian Cooperation. She said that regional cooperation demanded an improvement in the security situation in South Asia. Dr Yulia Sveshnikova from Moscow-based Center for Political Studies of Russia emphasised a greater conversation between Islamabad and Moscow for expanding their relations. She added there was a fear of the unknown in Moscow and the two sides needed to know more about each other because of their history. Former envoy, Arif Kamal, observed that Russia was exploring growth prospects of its relations with Pakistan while keeping India engaged. He was of the view that policymakers in Moscow remained indecisive and vulnerable to internal debates on the extent to which they could pursue this relationship. Meanwhile, Pakistani leaders were said to regard Russian engagement as a dissuasive factor vis-à-vis Indian aggressive designs.