On April 20, His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and chairman and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) met Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, to discuss areas of cooperation and mutual interest.

“You are a good friend who often visits us. We highly appreciate your views on Afghanistan and also on many other modern issues.  We treasure your sagacious and wise views as you are a man with great experience,” Russian foreign minister noted, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

“We see that your actions are guided not only by a desire to protect the interests of Ismailis around the world, but also to help settle the acute international issues that have been accumulating for the past decade.  We hope to have a useful meeting,” Lavrov said at a meeting with His Highness the Aga Khan.

His Highness the Aga Khan, for his part, said that cooperation with Russia was important as far as the situation in Central Asia was concerned.

About 20 million Shia Ismaili Muslims live in different countries around the world, Russian news website Gazeta.ru

In Tajikistan, Shia Ismaili Muslims compactly live in the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).

Ismaili Muslims live on both sides of border between Tajikistan’s GBAO and Afghan Badakhshan Province.  “In this context, we need the Aga Khan than he needs us,” Andrey Dubnov, a Russian expert on Central Asia, told Gazeta.ru in an interview.  

In 2012, the Aga Khan reportedly played a positive role form the point of view of Russia’s interest during an internal conflict in Tajikistan’s Gorno Badakhshan.

Today, during the spring season of intensification of terrorist activity in Afghanistan, Russia has needed once again the Aga-Khan’s assistance in Gorno Badakhshan, Dubnov was cited as saying by Gazeta.tu.  “The Afghan part of this region evokes especial concern of security services because Islamic State (IS) terrorist group is forcing the Taliban radical movement out of here (both organizations are banned in Russia),” Russian expert said.

“The fact that the Russian authorities invited the Aga Khan to Moscow is a significant event.  Apparently Russia recognizes his role as supreme authority who can influence the course of events in the region,” Dubnov added.  

Contacts between the Ag Khan and the Russian authorities have been developing not for the first decade.  Russian President Vladimir Putin met with His Highness the Aga Khan at least one time – in 2002.  

His Highness the Aga Khan met with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 30, 2002.  The two leaders discussed the potential for expanding activities of AKDN within the Russian Federation and reviewed together the context in which AKDN has established and grown its development initiatives in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

His Highness the Aga Khan, the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), is the 49th hereditary Imam (Spiritual Leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. For His Highness the Aga Khan, one manifestation of his hereditary responsibilities has been a deep engagement with development for almost 60 years.

The Ismailis constitute the second largest Shia community after the Twelvers in the Muslim world and are now scattered in more than twenty countries of Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

Founded and guided by His Highness the Aga Khan, the Aga Khan Development Network brings together individual agencies that operate in a range of areas – from economic development, education and rural development to cultural revitalization, health care and financial services.  Together these agencies collaborate towards a common goal – to build institutions and programs that can respond to the contemporary challenges and opportunities of social, economic and cultural growth in Tajikistan.

Operating in Tajikistan since 1992, AKDN draws on a strong base of experience in working with mountain societies.  It works in all regions of the country and employs over 3,500 people through its operations and investments.