Pak important partner in South Asia: Putin

Moscow: Pakistan is Russia`s "most important" partner in South Asia and in the Islamic world, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said today during a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart in St. Petersburg.

"Pakistan today is not an important trade and economic partner of Russia, but also most important Russian partner in South Asia and in the Islamic world," Putin was quoted as saying at his meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

The two met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) prime-ministerial meet in St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported.

Welcoming Gilani, Putin said he was happy to see him in Russia and his hometown St. Petersburg, though he had met him earlier in other countries.

He also confirmed Moscow`s readiness to invest USD 500 million on the CASA-1000 electric transmission line to supply Pakistan with the Central Asian power from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

With deterioration of Islamabad`s ties with Washington, Moscow is seeking a closer relationship with India`s archrival with the blessing of China – Pakistan`s "all-weather" friend.

This Russian shift in South Asia policy where India had always been Moscow`s main partner is reflection of apprehensions over New Delhi-Washington relationship turning into a military-political alliance to block Russia and China`s interests in the region.

Moscow also believes that the key to the stability in Russia`s soft belly – Central Asia — is ties with Islamabad, which has the potential of creating mischief along and inside the borders of the former Russian empire.