No bilateral meeting between Imran and Putin in Beijing a big diplomatic failure: Pak newspaper
Islamabad, Apr 29: In what is seen as a major diplomatic setback, Pakistan could not convince Russia for a bilateral meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of a high-profile meeting in Beijing, a media report said on Monday.
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 Sunday, The Express Tribune reported.
There was no immediate explanation from the government as to why more bilateral meetings could not be arranged between Khan and other world leaders, it said.
The Pakistan Foreign Office, in a statement ahead of Imran's visit had said that he would not only attend the BRF but would also hold meetings with "several heads of state/governments and corporate and business leaders" on the sidelines of the summit hosted by President Xi.
On the sidelines of the BRF, Khan had separate meetings with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and the CEO of World Bank Kristalina Georgieva and discussed cash-strapped Pakistan's efforts to tide over the financial woes with the help of the two global lenders.
"The biggest setback for Pakistan was its failure to arrange a meeting between President Putin and Prime Minister Imran," the paper commented.
The BRF was one of the major international meetings the cricketer-turned-politician has attended after assuming charge as Prime Minister in August last year.
Quoting official sources, the report said the Pakistan government did request Russia for a meeting between the two leaders but it could not be materialised.
When contacted, Foreign Office Spokesperson Muhammad Faisal said he was not aware of any request from Pakistan for a meeting between Imran and Putin.
However, former diplomats were surprised at Pakistan's inability to arrange more meetings of prime minister Khan with world leaders in Beijing.
"I cannot imagine our side could have missed seeking a bilateral with President Putin," wondered former ambassador Abdul Basit.
"Perhaps, the latter's tight schedule didn't permit. I would not like to assume there were reasons other than that," Basit, the former high commissioner of Pakistan to India, told the paper.
But another former diplomat, who wished not to be named, said this was a clear diplomatic failure of Pakistan.
The diplomat was of the view that a meeting between Putin and Imran at this juncture would have carried a huge significance even if it was just the optic.
The sense within the diplomatic community is that the Russian decision to stay away from the bilateral engagement could be linked to its cautious approach.
"Perhaps, Russia may not want to send a wrong message to India at this stage," said one source referring to Moscow's close ties with New Delhi.
Relations between Pakistan and Russia, especially the military-to-military ties, have seen steady improvement during the last few years with both the sides agreeing to bury their bitter past.
In 2016, after the Uri terror attack in Kashmir, New Delhi pushed Moscow to cancel first-ever joint military exercises with Pakistan. Russia, however, went ahead with the war games, the paper noted.
Against this backdrop, it was difficult to comprehend that why Putin-Khan meeting could not take place, said the diplomat.