Sultan visits Moscow next week
By Waleed PD Mahdini

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will be the official guest of the Russian Federation when he arrives in Moscow next week for a five-day state visit.

The visit will be His Majesty's second trip to Russia since 2005, but it will be his first with Her Majesty the Raja Isteri, Her Royal Highness the Pengiran Isteri and other members of the royal family. His Majesty was the first Bruneian monarch to visit Russia in June 2005.

According to early news reports and informed sources, His Majesty's itinerary will include having a four-eyes meeting with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, as well as Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, during which sources have hinted that there could be the possibility of the signing of agreements.

According to Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, in an interview with RIA Novosti in June this year: "Developing economic and trade cooperation will figure prominently in the talks."

"The sides intend to discuss the possibilities to foster cooperation in the energy sphere as well as in humanitarian exchanges, education and tourism. Widening the juridical base of Russian-Brunei relations will also be touched upon. In particular, this will be about completing the work on draft intergovernmental agreements on visa-free trips for diplomatic and service (official) passport holders and on the encouragement and reciprocal protection of investments."

After His Majesty's first state visit to Russia, talks between the two leaders sparked a positive impulse in Brunei-Russia cooperation. Nesterenko remarked that the Sultanate's initiative to diversify its economy opened up "good prospects" for economic ties between the two countries.

"Brunei, having considerable financial resources, is ready to cooperate with us in the investment sphere and in the attraction of Russian capital and technologies to the oil and gas industry, mineral prospecting and production, the agro-industrial sector, fishing, forestry and to the area of biotechnologies," Nesterenko was quoted as saying in a press statement.

An official with Rosoboronexport confirmed that His Majesty is scheduled to visit "military installations" and meet with officials from Rosoboronexport for talks. As the main state agency for military arms sales and dual-purpose technology and services, Rosoboronexport is Russia's major specialised agency for arms export.

Another issue that is expected to be on the two sides agenda will be the opening up of a Russian embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan. Prime Minister Putin had already signed the order on December 1, 2008 that was expected to "help advance Russia's interests both in Brunei and in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole", explained Nesterenko, adding: "Undoubtedly this step will serve to deal with practical issues of the intensification of Russian-Brunei ties across the board."

Prior to the signing of the order, Brunei was the only country among the 10 Asean member states without a permanent Russian diplomatic mission. The current non-resident Russian ambassador to the Sultanate, Mr Vladimir Morozov is also concurrently Russia's ambassador to Malaysia.

Diplomatic relations between the two nations were established in 1991, which was followed with the opening of Brunei's embassy in Moscow in 2001. However, in 1987, the-then premier Mikhail Gorbachev had already called for the establishment of diplomatic relations with Brunei. Although the Soviet ambassador to Singapore attempted to establish these relations with Brunei in 1988, the Sultanate was, at that time, still unprepared to establish relations with the communist state. But since then, bilateral interaction has evolved at a dynamic pace, such as was witnessed by the attendance of the then-President Putin to Brunei in 2000 for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. - Borneo Bulletin (10th October 2009)