- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

From combined dispatches
MOSCOW The presidents of Pakistan and Russia met yesterday a sign of thawing relations and the first visit to Moscow by a Pakistani leader in 33 years.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his talks with President Pervez Musharraf, aimed at overcoming decades of mistrust, would help them coordinate relations and a global anti-terror campaign.
The two countries have been divided for years by Russia's close ties with India, Pakistan's arch-rival, and Moscow's suspicion that Pakistani territory provides a haven for Muslim extremists.
After meeting Gen. Musharraf, Mr. Putin said the talks would help to coordinate efforts "in addressing international questions, including in the anti-terror coalition."
Gen. Musharraf said, "The past has not been much to look back to. We have to lean on whatever good we had between our two countries to create a new working relationship."
Some analysts said the three-day visit could prepare new ground for cooperation in a world changing rapidly after the September 11 attacks.
"The main aim of the Pakistani leader is to melt the ice in Russian-Pakistani relations," the Russian daily Kommersant said.
Russia is a long-standing ally and arms supplier of India, with which Pakistan has fought three wars. More than 70 percent of India's military hardware comes from Russia.
Even as Gen. Musharraf flew into Moscow on Tuesday, Mr. Putin spoke by telephone with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee assuring him that the visit would not result in any shifts in Russia's global priorities.
In a clear reference to India, the Kremlin said political cooperation with Pakistan "must go on without harming relations with our traditional partners."
Russia and Pakistan have historical antipathy. Pakistan was a springboard for anti-Soviet forces during the 1980s Afghan war, and Russia accuses some Pakistanis of supporting Muslim separatists in its southern Chechnya region.
A Kremlin source told reporters that Russia hopes India and Pakistan will normalize relations in the interests of stability on the Asian subcontinent.
Echoing previous comments by Mr. Putin, the source said Moscow expected Islamabad to continue efforts to stop Muslim extremists crossing from Pakistan-administered Kashmir to the Indian sector of the disputed Himalayan region.
In a conciliatory remark, Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani said in Singapore yesterday that New Delhi is willing to talk with Islamabad over Kashmir. India has refused talks unless infiltration of militants from Pakistan stops.
Mr. Putin and Gen. Musharraf were expected to explore cooperation in the fields of energy, metals, telecommunications, aerospace and industrial projects.
Russia and India traded goods and services worth $1.12 billion in 2001, while Russia-Pakistan trade accounted for a mere $56.7 million, according to state statistics.

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