Cuddling after biting chill.

Russia appears to be diverting the focus of its economic interests towards the East after serious setbacks in the West, where its investments for centuries reached a dead-end, including disruption in gas supplies and confiscation of assets. It is increasing trade ties with regional countries like China and India, particularly in the fields of oil and energy supplies.

In recent months and years, Pakistan and Russia have been warming up to a new phase of bilateral economic and strategic relations after more than 50 years of unease over the cold-war era. Despite political wrangling, all three- past governments of PPP, PMLN and PTI have been trying to build bridges with Moscow.

The PPP tried to settle a longstanding dispute between Pakistan and Russian businesses, but ultimately, the PML-N succeeded in persuading the Russian side to bring down their claims against a Pakistani firm to $94 million in November 2015 instead of $102m. With the payment of said claims to Russia in December 2019, the decades long trade dispute stood settled, which had been a major irritant to the revival of economic relations.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan was on an official visit to Moscow in February last year, the day Russian forces entered Ukraine. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also met President Putin in Samarkand in September last year, and things started to progress. The two sides last Friday signed three agreements on custom matters for the exchange of data and documents of imports and exports, besides cooperation in the field of airworthiness of aeronautical products.

After half a century, Pakistan and Russia have been warming up to a new phase of bilateral economic and strategic relations

They also set a deadline for March this year to sort out technical details like insurance, transportation, volumes and payment mechanism for the supply of oil and oil products.

But at least four areas which remained under focus but not discussed in public pertained to the diversion or redirection of trade between the two countries through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The Russian energy minister also hinted at the settlement of trade transactions in the currencies of friendly countries to sidestep the US dollar.

Export and import of goods through road transport in the wake of restricted access through air or sea route could also be a stopgap arrangement, while barter trade under which Pakistan could provide military equipment to Russia in addition to textiles, apparel...

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