New Delhi: Did China play a “subtle but very significant role” in facilitating diplomatic conversations between Pakistan and Russia?
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan nodded vigorously in the affirmative when asked this during an interview with Russia’s state-owned media outlet Russia Today (RT) Tuesday, ahead of his maiden two-day visit to Moscow amid its tensions with Ukraine.
He also nodded in corroboration when asked about his own suggestion (made while in Beijing) that Islamabad can act as a “mediator between Beijing and Washington”.
On whether China would agree to such a possibility, he said that cooperation between China, the US and Russia “will benefit mankind much more than a conflict”.
“The America I know is very diverse… Surely there are sensible voices in the US who believe that conflict is not the way, there is another way, where it could be win-win for everyone. I certainly believe that cooperation between China and the United States and even for that matter Russia, would benefit mankind much more than a conflict,” said Khan.
During the interview, he also spoke at length about India, and alleged that the country has been taken over by “Nazi” ideology, adding that it is “no longer the India of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi”.
‘Not the India of Nehru and Gandhi’
Calling it “extreme nationalism”, Khan told RT that India “is no longer the country of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi”.
“What is happening in India is not what Indians are like. This is not the India of Nehru and Gandhi, this is the India of Narendra Modi. A tiny, highly organised elite has taken over India just like the Nazis took over Germany,” he claimed.
Khan accused the Modi government of focusing on Hindu politics instead of bringing development to the people of India.
“Indian leadership — I wish they would concentrate on raising people out of poverty rather than proving to the world that the Hindus are the most superior race,” he said.
‘Would love to debate Modi on TV’
Asked about navigating the Kashmir issue with India, Khan remarked: “I would love to debate with Narendra Modi on TV.”
Earlier this month, Pakistan National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf had said that Kashmir remains an “integral” issue to Pakistan, adding that it is not wise to “basically give up on your cardinal national interests”.
Asked whether he will leave the Kashmir issue with India to his successors or try to resolve it during his tenure, the Pakistan PM claimed that he had wanted to actively engage with India upon entering office in 2018.
“Do you know, when my party came into power in 2018, the first thing I did was to reach out to India and I told them you know our only issue is Kashmir. Let’s sit down on the table and resolve it, let’s have a roadmap. But I didn’t realise, and remember I’m the one who knows India better than anyone because cricket is a passion…in the subcontinent and because…me being captain of cricket here and sort of playing lots over 10 years against India, I know India better than most people, so I immediately reached out,” he said.
Khan added that he then discovered, to his “horror”, that “this is not the India I used to know because it’s been taken over by this mad ideology”.
“It’s a racist ideology, which was inspired by the Nazis. The founding fathers were inspired by the Nazis… You see there is negative nationalism and positive nationalism. You must distinguish between the two,” he added.
‘Nation we can learn from most is China’
During the interview, the Pakistan PM also said that “the nation we can learn from most is China”.
“Pakistan is trying to learn from all advanced societies and right now, the nation we can learn most from is China. If my main emphasis is to lift people out of poverty, no human society has achieved what China has done,” he added.
The remarks came days after Khan had, in an interview with Eric Li, director of the Advisory Committee of China Institute of Fudan University, said that China was a “friend which had always stood by Pakistan”, while the US established relations with Pakistan when needed and then “abandoned it and slapped sanctions” when its purposes were served.
Earlier this month, Khan had also visited China, where he attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Days ahead of the visit, he had attracted criticism from his own citizens for denying the atrocities against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.
‘Hoping Ukraine crisis is resolved peacefully’
At a time when tensions are high and climbing between Russia, Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Khan also spoke out against a military conflict in the region, fearing it could adversely affect developing countries like Pakistan that are still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and already facing high gas prices.
“The last thing we want is the world divided into blocs, and sanctions. I’m hoping that this Ukraine crisis is resolved peacefully,” he said.
Khan said he feared that if the situation escalates to a military conflict, countries like Pakistan will suffer due to high gas prices.
“Take this Ukraine conflict. I cannot really believe that there is any chance or possibility of a conflict… Forget about what would happen to the combatants, for the developing world, already the price of oil has gone up because of the prospect of a conflict,” he said, adding that Ukraine also supplies wheat to the world and to Russia.
Asked if it is too precarious a time for his visit to Moscow to expand Pakistan’s geopolitical horizons— given that a war between Russia and Ukraine may be on the cards — Khan said: “This [Ukraine crisis] doesn’t concern us. We have a bilateral relationship with Russia and we really want to strengthen it.”
In Moscow, the Pakistan PM is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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 and European Union (EU) countries to agree to an initial sanctions package.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)