MOSCOW - Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for three days of talks aimed at improving relations strained over the Kremlin's close ties with India and Russia's fears that Pakistan wasn't doing enough in the fight against terrorism.
Musharraf's visit is the first by a Pakistani head of state in more than three decades. He is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
"Russia intends to carry on work jointly with the Pakistani side to eliminate remaining disagreements and seek to further develop ties in all fields, naturally with no detriment to our relations with our traditional partners," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Russia has long had close ties with India, Pakistan's nuclear-armed rival. Last month, Russia signed an agreement that envisions the joint development of an advanced fighter jet, joint production of the supersonic Brahmos cruise missile and sales of submarines.
During Putin's visit to the Indian capital New Delhi in December, the Russian leader also endorsed a joint declaration calling on Pakistan to "eliminate the terrorist infrastructure" in that country and block the movement of terrorists across its border. Pakistan denies any connection with terrorists, saying it only supports the cause of the "freedom fighters" demanding independence for Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Russia and Pakistan never had easy relations.
Following the former Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan was a staging area for U.S.-backed rebel fighters. And while both are key backers of the U.S.-led war against terror, Putin indirectly criticized Pakistan last year, chiding Washington for its double standard with allies that weren't doing enough to block terrorists.
But Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told The Associated Press this week that Musharraf was headed to Moscow "with an open mind and with an open heart."
"First and foremost, I am going to Moscow to strengthen our relations with Russia and offer our friendship to your country," Musharraf was quoted as saying by Interfax ahead of his visit.
Putin and Musharraf are expected to sign bilateral agreements dealing with economic and defense cooperation, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said. Last year, the volume of bilateral trade was US$100 million, a figure both sides would like to see increased, Yakovenko was quoted by Interfax as saying.
The two leaders are also expected to discuss Pakistan's relations with India, particularly ways to encourage dialogue, and the issue of Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan territory over which Pakistan and India have fought two wars.
Putin spoke by phone Tuesday with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Kremlin said, adding that the call allowed the leaders to "compare notes" on the eve of Putin's talks with Musharraf. It said they discussed bilateral ties and the situation in South Asia, including ways to normalize relations between India and Pakistan.