— What is the current stage of economic and social relations between Russia and Pakistan?
I can assure you that our bilateral relations have achieved a very high level in 2020. On the one hand, the relations have been stagnating for 20 years. Still, during the last 2-3 years, we can observe an explosive growth in the fields like the military-industrial complex, oil and gas industry, and agricultural sector. We will do our best to support this pace.
— To what extent is the Russian education currently demanded in Pakistan?
I am not going to surprise anyone by saying that education is always aimed at support of bilateral relations between countries. Therefore, Russian education is becoming more important in Pakistan. As public and private Russian corporations are visibly present in Pakistan's economy and take part in the largest projects, we expect a dramatic increase in Pakistani students' numbers in Russia in the nearest future.
— How many young Pakistanis complete school studies, and how many come to Russia?
As far as I am informed, up to 2.5 million Pakistanis complete their school studies every year. Pakistan's state policy is aimed at fighting illiteracy and increasing the accessibility of school education which has led to the emergence of big numbers of potential students. Unfortunately, the largest part of Pakistani youth who study abroad traditionally chooses to go to Western European countries. However, I am sure that Russian education is far better both in terms of quality and financial affordability. The main problem that I can figure out is a lack of information about the Russian education system's opportunities. That is why only 2% of Pakistanis leaving the home country to study abroad choose Russia as their study destination. This is a very small number, and we will try to contribute to academic cooperation development.
— Why Russia can be attractive for Pakistani youth?
I think that life in Russia is more convenient and comfortable than in Europe, not to mention that cost of living is much more expensive. Moreover, Russia has a centuries-long successful history as a multinational country. There are several Muslim regions in Russia where Pakistani students can feel at home as they can practice their cultural and religious traditions. Definitely, there is a limitation related to the need to study the Russian language, which is very weakly developed in Pakistan. But based on my personal 26-years' experience of living in Russia, I can acknowledge that there is a very tolerant and friendly attitude towards foreign nationals. So, yes, Russia is definitely very attractive!
— Do you plan to implement any initiatives in your community to attract and support Pakistani students?
Our community has been supporting all Pakistani students of Russian universities for the last five years. We try to solve their problems, provide support, including assistance in Pakistan. We have a dedicated adaptation center for newly arriving students within our community. We plan to extend its activity for Pakistan to share the successful experience with those who consider Russia as a study destination.
— What could you recommend to Russian universities that would like to start working on Pakistani students' attraction?
First of all, I want to say that Russian universities lose much neglecting cooperation potential with a country of 225 million citizens. But it is possible to catch up quickly. We invite Russian universities to participate in student fairs and exhibitions, visit different schools and universities, and establish relations with them and cooperate with Pakistani education consultants certified by the Education Export Center. And the Pakistani Community in Russia will be happy to support the promotion of Russian education in Pakistan.