Bishkek   -  Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan wanted to procure weapons from Russia and develop military-to-military relations, and that he is happy Islamabad is moving “closer” to Russia in the “changing” world.

“Yes, we are looking for arms from Russia, and I know our military is already in touch with the Russian military,” Imran Khan told Sputnik News in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

Hours later, Prime Minister Imran Khan held an informal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner hosted by Kyrgyzstan president in honour of heads of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) states in Bishkek.

PM Khan arrived in Kyrgyzstan to attend the 19th Meeting of the Council of the Heads of State (CHS) of the SCO.

During the dinner hosted by Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, the Pakistan premier and President Putin shook hands and inquired well-being of each other, reported TV channel.

According to TV channels, PM Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi entered the hall room together, but did not greet each other. The prime minister, however, shook hands with heads of other states. Khan and Modi sat in different corners of the hall room

Responding to a question about Pak-Russia ties in interview with Sputnik, Khan said “While both countries were in “opposite camps” during the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979-1989), times have changed, and “I am very happy that we now are moving closer to Russia,” Khan said.

The world is not what it used to be, according to the PM, and this has effects on bilateral relations. “The power centres are changing, or there are different power centres growing. And so we hope that in this new world order our relationship with Russia keeps improving.”

Islamabad used to “look to the United States as the only ally and trading partner.” But now China, with its Belt and Road Initiative, is increasingly shifting into the focus of interest as well, the prime minister said.

To a query about growing ties with Russia, Khan said: “Yes. We have developed cooperation with Russia between our defence forces. There has always been meeting. I think our defence personnel have already met. And so, yes, we hope to deepen our contacts.”

“Most of the 50s, 60s, 70s were spent in the Cold War region, where India was close to the Soviet Union, and Pakistan was close to the United States. We were in different camps. Now things have changed. India is also friendly with the United States, and Pakistan is also friendly with the US. So we no longer have the Cold War situation. It is refreshing that we have developed our contacts with Russia, and they are developing all the time.”

“First, we hope that our tension with India decreases, so we do not have to buy arms because we want to spend money on human development. But, yes, we are looking for arms from Russia, and I know our military is already in touch with the Russian military.”

When asked is it possible that Russia and Pakistan will get no visa regime, Khan said: “Well, Pakistan is going in this direction. Seventy countries will now be able to get visa at the airport. Previously we did not have this agreement with anyone, but now we are opening up Pakistan for tourism, for investment, and we feel that we want to make it easier for countries to come and get a visa. There are seventy countries — and Russia is included in those countries who can come, the Russians can come and get a visa at the airport.”

To a query about tensions with India, Khan said “Resolving differences by military means is “madness” and the only way the two nuclear-armed rivals can fix ties is through dialogue.”

“We hope that our tension with India decreases, so we do not have to buy arms because we want to spend money on human development,” he maintained. “India and Pakistan should strive to defuse tensions by peaceful means because otherwise both countries would find themselves on the brink of an all-out war.”

“Both countries managed to ease tensions although sporadic violence and cross-border shelling did take place in contested Kashmir. Life steadily returned to normal on both sides of the Kashmir border – and it provides new openings for India and Pakistan,” Khan believes.

“We hope that, as I’ve said, now that the elections are over, India will respond positively to these initiatives, to further people-to-people contact,” he remarked. However, “people-to-people contact only works when the governments also try to get closer,” he admitted.

Imran Khan said nuclear powers should not look at military options as potential solutions to their arguments and should instead work through them via dialogue. “Let’s resolve all our differences through dialogue. In fact, that is the only way of resolving our differences. There is no way two nuclear-armed countries should think of resolving the differences through military means. It is madness,” Khan said.

Contacts between the people of Pakistan and India will only be able to improve if the governments of the two countries want to take steps in this direction, Khan said.

The prime minister cited the Kartarpur corridor for the Sikh community as “a great initiative from Pakistan.” The proposed border corridor would allow Sikh pilgrims to visit the gurdwara, a place of worship, in the Pakistani commune of Kartarpur without a visa.

Khan added that he was hoping that his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, would use his mandate to resolve the two countries’ differences and improve their relationship. “Our main difference with India is Kashmir. And if the heads of two countries resolve, if two governments decide, this issue can be resolved. But, unfortunately, we have not had much success from India so far. But we hope now that the current prime minister has one big mandate, we hope that he will use this mandate to develop better relationship and bring peace in the subcontinent,” Khan said.

About Iran-Pakistan pipeline project Khan said: “You see, at the moment there has not been much progress, and that is because of the sanctions put on Iran by the United States.”

About Afghanistan, Khan said: “I’ve had a meeting with President Ghani in Saudi Arabia, just a week or so ago. We had a very good conversation, we talked about how Pakistan help Afghanistan in resolving the issue about the civil war that is going on there, how we can get the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government and how there can be peace in Afghanistan. So it is in the interest of Pakistan and Afghanistan for there to be peace in Afghanistan.

“Because after Afghanistan the country that is most wanting there to be peace in Afghanistan is Pakistan because war that happens in Afghanistan affects the border line, border areas of Pakistan as well. Hence it is in the interest of both countries that after these long almost 40 years of military action, civil war, foreign invasion we feel that people of Afghanistan deserve peace. So Pakistan will be trying everything and is trying everything to help there to be peace, so that the Taliban start talking.

“They are already talking to the Americans, and we hope that the Taliban will then talk to the Afghan government so that there is peace. And this is something we crave in Pakistan because it will not just be that will mean that Afghanistan will have stability, it will mean that it will open up connectivity between the two countries, trade, the borderline areas, which have been devastated by this war on terror and then before that the civil war, then the US invasion of Afghanistan, before that the Soviets — so the whole area has been devastated. And so the only way is peace and then allow trade and connectivity.”