Pakistan’s prime minister will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, officials have said, as the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine seems imminent.
A statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said Prime Minister Imran Khan and a high-level delegation will arrive in Russia on Wednesday for a two-day official visit.
“Pakistan and Russia enjoy friendly relations marked by mutual respect, trust and convergence of views on a range of international and regional issues,” the statement said.
It added that Putin and Khan “will review the entire array of bilateral relations including energy cooperation”, as well as unnamed regional and international issues.
The summit comes as much of the West aligns against Putin amid increasing fears of a war that could cause massive casualties, energy shortages on the European continent and chaos around the world.
Western leaders said Tuesday that Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognised their independence – but some indicated it was not yet a long-feared, full-fledged invasion.
The Foreign Ministry statement said Pakistan and Russia will exchange views on major regional and international issues, including Islamophobia and the situation in Afghanistan. The statement made no mention of the Ukraine crisis.
But Khan has opposed any military intervention, saying all issues can be resolved through talks and negotiations.
Khan in an interview with Russia’s state-owned television network RT expressed hope for a resolution of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through peaceful means.
“I am hoping that this Ukrainian crisis is resolved peacefully,” he said in the interview released by the outlet on Tuesday. He said he was not a believer in military conflict. Khan gave the interview in the capital of Islamabad ahead of the planned visit.
Some foreign policy experts have questioned Khan’s visit to Russia, saying that Putin could use Khan’s presence to further his “propaganda”.
“The other risk is … Putin using Khan’s presence as an example to the world that Russia still has good friends after what happened. Putin may try to goad him into saying something regarding Ukraine. Hopefully, Khan doesn’t take the bait,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Centre, a think-tank, wrote in a tweet.
The other risk is that Khan becomes a prop for Putin's propaganda, w/Putin using Khan's presence as an example to the world that Russia still has good friends after what happened. Putin may try to goad him into saying something re Ukraine. Hopefully Khan doesn't take the bait.
— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) February 22, 2022
Meanwhile, Pakistani political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi tweeted that while “scaremongering” over the Pakistani PM’s visit to Russia was “understandable”, Pakistan will remain “important in both the West & in Moscow/Beijing”.
The scaremongering over PM Khan’s visit to Russia is understandable—but relax: Pakistan will remain important in both the West & in Moscow/Beijing.
The real threat isn’t abroad. It’s at home: the PECA amendment & Pakistan’s self sabotaging elite.https://t.co/RnCOWHeIXr
— Mosharraf Zaidi (@mosharrafzaidi) February 22, 2022
However, in an interview published on Monday, Khan played down the timing of the visit, and any effect it would have on Pakistan’s relations with the West.
“This visit was planned well before the emergence of the current phase of Ukrainian crisis … I received the invitation from President Putin much earlier,” he told Newsweek Pakistan.