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Updated: May 15, 2011 09:28 IST

Zardari in Russia, on first foreign visit since Osama killing

PTI
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Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, foreground, walks upon arrival at Moscow airport on Wednesday. Photo: AP.
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, foreground, walks upon arrival at Moscow airport on Wednesday. Photo: AP.

Although Mr. Medvedev has frequently met Mr. Zardari on the sidelines of international meets and multi—lateral formats, this will be first official visit of the Pakistani President and observers here note that it acquires special importance in the wake of the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad.

President Asif Ali Zardari will talk trade, energy and counter—terrorism cooperation with Russia during his visit to this country, his first to a foreign nation since Osama bin Laden was killed on Pakistani soil.

Mr. Zardari arrived here today on a four—day visit during which the two sides are expected to sign several agreements to enhance their bilateral trade and energy cooperation.

According to sources here, the two countries are also expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on civil aviation.

The key international issues like anti—terror combat, regional security and cooperation at the regional and international fora like Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and Islamic Conference are expected to be discussed tomorrow at Mr. Zardari’s talks with President Dmitry Medvedev at the Kremlin summit.

Although Mr. Medvedev has frequently met Mr. Zardari on the sidelines of international meets and multi—lateral formats, this will be first official visit of the Pakistani President and observers here note that it acquires special importance in the wake of the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad.

This is Mr. Zardari’s first foreign visit since the May 2 raid by U.S. forces that killed bin Laden, raising several questions on Pakistan’s role in harbouring him.

As cracks appear in the U.S.—Pakistan alliance, Mr. Zardari might seek closer alliance with Russia, Sergei Strokan South Asia analyst of prestigious Kommersant daily believes.

In his interview to the local media, Mr. Zardari has invited Russia to use Pakistani territory to fulfil the old dream of Russian czars to seek access to “southern seas“.

According to him, such a move would contribute to economic prosperity of both countries.

Mr. Zardari said Moscow and Islamabad have so far failed to use their potential for economic cooperation to the full and voiced hope that the forthcoming talks with the Russian leaders would provide a fresh impulse for bilateral relations.

In Moscow, Mr. Zardari is scheduled to address the faculty and students at the Skolkovo School of Business. On Friday, he will travel to St Petersburg at the end of his state visit.

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