New Delhi: A walk along Moscow’s Red Square, subject to security clearance by authorities, possible meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Valentinovich Novak, besides multiple interviews — this is what is planned for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan during his two-day visit to Russia starting Wednesday evening.
Khan’s maiden visit to Russia — the first such trip by a Pakistani PM in 23 years — comes at a time when tensions are escalating between Moscow and Western powers over the crisis unfurling in Ukraine.
Islamabad has not yet commented on Putin’s decision to recognise two separatist territories in eastern Ukraine — a move that prompted sanctions from the US, while European Union (EU) countries agreed to an initial sanctions package.
Sources in India’s defence and security establishment told ThePrint that Khan’s visit to Russia, which has traditionally had very good relations with India, shows the growing ties between Moscow and Islamabad.
China is playing an important role in bridging the strategic distance between Pakistan and Russia, they added.
Pakistani analysts have said the most prominent aspect of this visit is that Russia did not extend the invitation; rather, an invitation was sought.
Sources said according to the schedule, Khan will land in Russia Wednesday evening by a special aircraft and be accorded a Guard of Honour, which has been verbally communicated to Pakistani authorities.
He will be staying at Moscow’s Four Seasons Hotel, which is a 40 minutes’ drive from the airport.
The Pakistan PM will have a quiet morning Thursday with breakfast at the hotel, followed by internal briefings.
Pakistani authorities have requested for a walk on the iconic Red Square, clearance for which is yet to be given by Russian security agencies, sources said.
If all goes well, he will have a meeting with Putin at around 2 pm, followed by a meeting with Russian Deputy PM Novak, who is in charge of energy-related matters.
The same day, Khan is also scheduled for an interview with Rossiya-24, the state television channel.
Before flying out Friday, Khan will visit the Islamic Centre in Moscow and meet with the Grand Mufti of the Russian Federation.
He will also visit Moscow’s Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, a war memorial dedicated to Soviet soldiers killed during World War II, besides an interview with a news agency and a media briefing.
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Pakistan-Russia ties became stronger in last decade
Over the last decade, Moscow and Islamabad have come closer as India’s ties with the US became stronger.
In 2014, when India was pursuing the deal for Apache attack helicopters with the US, Russia and Pakistan had signed a deal for the supply of Mi-35 attack choppers.
The following year, both sides signed a defence cooperation agreement, and carried out their first joint military exercise in 2016.
Recently, the two countries have expressed support for each other too. Last year, Putin had said that insulting Prophet Mohammad does not count as an expression of artistic freedom. Khan then called Putin to thank him.
Four corners don’t necessarily make geometry, says India
Asked about the new security relationship between Russia and Pakistan, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who is on a three-day visit to France, said Tuesday at the French Institute of International Relations that “four corners do not necessarily make a geometry”.
Referring to the Pakistan PM’s visit to Russia and coming together of Russia, China and Pakistan, he said: “All is true — Russia is dealing with Pakistan, Iran is dealing with China, Iran is dealing with Russia, there was a China-Russia Summit, all completely true… What does it take to put a Quad-like body together? It takes a lot of comfort, it takes a lot of systemic interaction, it takes strong leadership commitment. It’s all when all those things are there that the geometry actually begins to form.”
“Aggregating interactions does not automatically lead to a geometry. It takes something more,” he added.
With inputs from Nayanima Basu
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)
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