New Delhi: In a surprising turn of events, Russia, seen as a close friend of India, on Monday came out strongly in defence of New Delhi’s arch rival Pakistan, saying Islamabad’s credibility had increased after it started cracking down on terrorist financing.

Ironically, the comments came at an event to mark 70 years of diplomatic ties between Russia and India, whom the Russian ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev described as a “time-tested" as well as “global" partner.

“The credibility of this country (Pakistan) after it joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), after it started to take serious measures on the financing of terror, the credibility of Pakistan is growing. There is no reason, no sense to deny its wish to be part of the regional and global effort to fight terror, to search for stability and enhanced economic integration," Kudashev said.

The comments put partners India and Russia at variance with each other, given that New Delhi is of the view that Pakistan does little to fight terrorism and shelters and finances terrorists and insurgent groups who are anti-India.

The remarks come against the backdrop of a sense that Russia and India are drifting apart—with India getting closer to the US. On the other hand, Russia is getting closer to China and opening channels with Pakistan, selling military hardware and hosting senior members of the Pakistani military and conducting military exercises with Pakistani forces.

In his speech, Kudashev said one of the reasons for befriending Pakistan was for bringing peace to Afghanistan. “We wish it or not, dialogue between Kabul and Taliban, irrespective of how challenging it is, is the only way forward for the sake of a lasting national reconciliation," he said.

“The problems of Afghanistan are impossible to resolve without taking on board every neighbouring country," he said, adding that Moscow saw Pakistan as part of the solution rather than the problem—as a country providing support to the rebel Taliban.

“This logic also guides us towards further developing relations with Pakistan, which is, on the other hand, Russia’s historic and important regional partner as well," he said.

Russia-Pakistan ties got “new impetus since Islamabad has become the SCO member-state," he added.