By Amjad Ali
Islamabad, Apr 4 (EFE).- Pakistan is in the midst of negotiations to begin oil imports from Russia, with Islamabad keen to secure agreeable terms as it grapples with a severe economic crisis in the South Asian country despite criticism of the plans because of the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s ambassador to Pakistan, Danila V Ganich, told EFE that both sides were trying to keep trade negotiations out of the public eye, but did confirm that the “governments are in direct consultations” when asked if the agreement had already been signed.
Russia has avoided confirming the deal has been reached as “we wouldn’t want some guys from across the ocean to be obsessed about it too much”, the ambassador added, referring to the United States.
Negotiations on oil supplies to Pakistan have been on the table for several months, after a Russian delegation traveled to Islamabad in February to sign a “conceptual agreement” on the supply of fossil fuels.
Pakistani media reported on Sunday that an oil shipment would arrive in the country next month, the first in the nations’ commercial history, which will serve as a “test shipment” to convince Moscow that the arrangement is viable.
“We have been assured that we will get the same discount as any other country buying from Russia,” Pakistan’s oil minister, Musadik Malik, said Sunday, hoping the first order could be placed next month.
Pakistan would join the list of countries, like neighboring India, benefitting from discounted Russian energy supplies amid Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.
The shipment of crude oil to Pakistan would be a major relief for Islamabad, which has been hit by the high cost of natural gas and oil, especially after last summer’s devastating floods which affected 33 million people, displaced 8 million and caused 1,700 deaths.
The Russian ambassador stressed that relations with Pakistan were “great and developing”, especially in fields such as defense and trade, where new avenues of development are being explored through a corridor through neighboring Afghanistan.
“That is a great opportunity, but I think it will take some time for it to become true. Right now we are interacting with Pakistan using other routes, by sea, by air. Afghanistan is not stable, but we need some stability in that country, otherwise business people who are engaged in interactions will be sacred off,” he said.
On defense cooperation, Ganish stressed that their relations “are focused primarily on counter-terrorism”, although they are open to addressing more joint issues in the future.
“I think that there are no political constraints in the way of cooperation between Russia and Pakistan in any field, including defense. This cooperation should proceed step by step. We cannot get ourselves engaged in a mega-project if we do not cooperate even on a minor scale,” the ambassador said. EFE