Pakistan, Russia to go for FTA, currency swap agreement – The Express Tribune ST. PETERSBURG: The leaders of Pakistan and Russia have expressed the willingness to speed up work on the proposed Free Trade Agreement and currency swap arrangement to boost bilateral trade and further strengthen their economic ties. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who had a frank discussion in a cordial atmosphere, here on Monday also discussed the whole gamut of relations on the sidelines of the 10th Heads of Government meeting of the SCO. The two leaders discussed several important issues including fight against terrorism and extremism besides calling for the need to adopt a regional approach in dealing with common challenges. The two leaders discussed ways to strengthen relations by increasing cooperation in energy, trade, infrastructure development, agriculture, business cooperation and people to people contacts. Prime Minister Putin said relations between Pakistan and Russia have reached a level, where both the countries were in a position to enhance trade, measuring up to their strong ties. Prime Minister Gilani said Russia was an important country and a source of stability in the region and because of its geographical proximity and strength of economy, it has contributed significantly for the socio-economic uplift of the region. The Russian premier also supported Prime Minister Gilaniâ€™s proposals for implementing trade and energy projects. He announced financing of 500 million US dollars for the CASA-1000 for the power transmission from Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Putin also offered Russiaâ€™s assistance for the enhancement of the production capacity of the Pakistan Steel Mills by increasing its production from the current one million tonnes to three million tonnes. He also offered coal gasification technology for the Thar coal and upgradation of the Guddu and Muzaffargarh power plants to increase power generation capacity to help meet countryâ€™s growing energy needs. Putin said in practical and tangible terms, Russia wants materialization of projects including TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project and the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Trade and Transmission Project (CASA 1000). Gilani appreciated Russiaâ€™s support for mega projects including CASA-1000 and said it was his fourth meeting with Prime Minister Putin. He mentioned that he joined other leaders at the SCO forum despite the occasion of Eid because of the importance of the forum and also because of Pakistanâ€™s commitment to the regional issues. Prime Minister Gilani called for the opening of respective bank branches in both the countries to jack up the trade level. He said the top officials of their central banks can meet to work on an operational strategy in this regard. The Russian Prime Minister said the inter-ministerial commissionâ€™s meeting will be held on December 12, which will take up all subjects of cooperation at the experts level. â€œPakistan is important for us in trade and economy and is an important country of South Asia and the Organization of the Islamic Conference and can play an important role in the promotion of peace and security in the region,â€ he told Prime Minister Gilani. The leasing of Sukhoi commercial aircraft for the Pakistan International Airlines was also discussed during the meeting. Russian premier Putin also offered assistance to Pakistan in disaster management, saying it could help save precious lives and property. Gilani said he was very pleased to meet his counterpart at his home town of St. Petersburg, which was also an economic hub like Karachi, where he was born and said â€œwe share affinity between the two cities.â€ Putin supported Pakistanâ€™s stance on war on terror and agreed to pursue the policy of counter-terrorism for ensuring regional peace. The two prime ministers agreed that collective regional efforts were required to eliminate terrorism from the region to usher in peace and stability, and redirect all energies towards economic interaction among the members of SCO. Russian Prime Minister said Pakistan had good relations with China like the ties of his country with China, and it would be appropriate if the three countries can work together for peace, prosperity and stability of the region. Prime Minister Gilani invited the Russian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan, which he accepted. The dates would be worked out by the respective foreign ministries of the two countries.