Imran Khan's Visit to Russia Not Designed to Form 'Bloc' Against Any Country, Foreign Minister Says
The Kremlin confirmed the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Russia, which will be the first by any Pakistani premiere for 23 years. The announcement has piqued the curiosity of analysts who wonder whether Pakistan is manufacturing an opportunity to drive a wedge between the strategic ties which bind India and Russia.
Pakistan will seek greater cooperation with Russia to ensure peace and prosperity in south Asia during Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Moscow later this month, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Thursday.
"Forming a strategic bloc is not our aim. We are not going to be a part of the bloc politics and mindset. Russia is an important part of this region, and we want to cooperate in bringing peace and prosperity to the region," Foreign Minister Qureshi said at an event in Islamabad.
Qureshi emphasised that Russia has a vital role in Afghanistan, and it will be part of the agenda during talks between the two leaders in Moscow.
Khan's visit comes at a time when world powers are engaged in bringing stability to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Since the Taliban took over
Afghanistan last August, terrorist incidents have also increased in Pakistan.
The minister highlighted Islamabad's diplomatic outreach for building up regional and international consensus for constructive and sustained engagement with the new interim authorities in Afghanistan.
Pakistan and Russia are expected to reach several agreements, including a $2 billion gas pipeline project.
"We will discuss projects which can bring prosperity for this region, for Pakistan, and would be also beneficial for the Russians," Qureshi added.
The foreign minister said that Russia might invest and provide technology to construct the North-South Gas Pipeline project - a gas pipeline from the deep-water Port Muhammad bin Qasim in the Pakistani coastal city of Karachi stretching 1,100km north-east to Lahore at an estimated cost of approximately $2.5 billion.
Earlier this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
said that preparations for Prime Minister Khan's visit to Moscow were underway.
"Indeed, arrangements are being made for such a visit. We will announce its date when the time is ripe," the Kremlin official said.
Khan recently returned from a four-day visit to China - where Russian President Vladimir Putin was present - and held bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Moscow and Beijing have opposed the "formation of closed bloc structures and opposing camps in the Asia-Pacific region".
However, experts in India have dubbed Imran Khan's proposed visit a rise of the Asian "Anti-Quad", which poses a big challenge for India.
Quad is a bloc of four Indo-Pacific democracies comprising the US, Japan, Australia, and India.