Standing next to President Vladimir Putin on the day he announced invasion of Ukraine is not the photo opportunity that Prime Minister Imran Khan should have aimed for. While there are many voices inside Pakistan who believe that the Prime Minister could not have cancelled his visit to Russia, saner voices should have prevailed and rescheduled the visit to a later date.
Pakistan is isolated both regionally – Taliban Afghanistan is its only ally in South Asia – and globally and at a time like this the need of the hour should have been to ensure Pakistan is viewed as a country that is on the side of territorial integrity and sovereignty and not on the side of aggression committed against a smaller neighbor (Ukraine) by a larger country (Russia). Pakistan has long complained about India committing aggression against Pakistan, and so Pakistan’s reluctance to call out Russia is hypocritical.
Visiting China during the Beijing Olympics and then Russia also does not send a positive message to the United States and Europe. At the end of the day, Pakistan needs the Western countries to provide economic investment, relief on UN FATF, and support for Afghanistan. This was the time to show support so that Pakistan could benefit, not the time to indulge in rhetoric that does not provide any benefits to Pakistan.
An editorial in Dawn noted, “The timing and optics of the meeting were less than perfect, to say the least.”
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