Is it just a coincidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not/could not agree to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the just-concluded Belt and Road Forum in Beijing?
Bilateral meetings are common on the sidelines of international forums since it is convenient to arrange. It was proclaimed by Foreign Office before the Prime Minister’s departure to Beijing that Imran would not only attend the Belt and Road forum but would also hold meetings with “Several Heads of state/governments and corporate and business leaders on the sidelines of second BRF”. Contrary to the expectations other than his meetings with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, Imran could only manage meeting the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali and the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon despite the fact that at least 37 heads of state and government attended the two-day Belt and Road Forum (BRF) that concluded on 28th April 2019. However, the Prime Minister managed to have an audience with heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The BRF was one of the major international meetings the cricketer-turned-politician has attended after assuming charge as Prime Minister in August 2018. Pakistan’s government did request Russia for a meeting between the two leaders but it could not be materialized. The significance of a meeting between Putin and Imran at this juncture cannot be overestimated. Apart from symbolism, it would have conveyed to the world community the extent of bonhomie, fraternity, and understanding between the two countries Russia and Pakistan.
Whom All Did Putin meet?
One may offer a justification that since Russian Leader was too busy and his not able to meet just coincidental. But scrolling through the list of whom all he met, it becomes clear that paucity of time may not be the only reason. He met North Korea’s Chairman Kim, Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev, Serbia’s President Vucic, Egypt’s President Sisi, Cyprus’s President Anastasiades, and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Suu Kyi apart from President Xi Jinping. In addition, he delivered a keynote speech and also held a press conference. Each of the aforementioned events did definitely consume a finite fraction of Putin’s precious time. It’s surprising that he could grant an audience to Head of States of Serbia and Cyprus and not Pakistan’s!
An incisive analysis of the development leads to following probable reason behind the snub.
One school of thought suggests that Russian-Pakistani bilateral relations are indeed good. They share identical positions on Afghanistan. Anti-terrorist cooperation between Russia and Pakistan and Russia’s penchant to enter Pakistan’s developing energy industry. These significant caveats can’t be downplayed. If that be so, what was the real reason behind denying the meeting? Perhaps what prompted Putin to not go ahead with the meet was a possibility of India being antagonized because of this overture. India boycotted BRF on impeccable grounds. India and Pakistan recently had a showdown wherein India standing on a moral high-ground avenged the martyrdom of its 44 soldiers of Pulwama IED blast through Balakot strikes of 26 February 2019. World community backed India’s position and endorsed its right to carry out pre-emptive strikes on Pakistan’s non-military installations. Under international pressure, Pakistan had to return India’s pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman without any conditions. And of course, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan cannot be expected to match the charisma, clout, and goodwill of India’s PM who is held in high esteem, the world over.
01 May 19/Wednesday Written by Naphisa