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Even as a confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine has intensified rapidly, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will fly to Moscow on Wednesday for the first bilateral meeting between the two countries in almost two decades.
Pakistani-Russian relations were strained for years as Islamabad stood with the United States (US) throughout the Cold War and was designated as a major ally.isla
However, the visit comes as the country in South Asia has grown closer to Beijing as the centerpiece of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative. Its historic connections with the US, a vital ally during the Cold War, have cooled.
“During the Summit meeting, the two leaders will examine the whole range of bilateral ties, including energy cooperation,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will also address problems such as the Afghan situation. Also, PM Imran Khan would restate his commitment to completing the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP) construction project during the talks, according to sources, who added that the project is critical for Islamabad and that the country is dedicated to its timely completion.
“Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP)” is a project that aims delivering natural gas from coastal regions to industrial areas in the north, enhancing Pakistan’s capacity to transport imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) internally. In May 2021, Pakistan and Russia have signed a deal to construct the pipeline.
While Pakistan would highly benefit from the Pipeline Project, Russia’s benefit is relatively smaller. Originally, the Russian side was to possess a majority interest, bear 85 percent of the expenses, and run the gas pipeline for 25 years, but under the revised version of the agreement, Pakistan’s portion would rise to 74 percent, while Russia’s share will fall to 26 percent. The pipeline, which will be built by Russian businesses, would only travel through Pakistan and be aimed at the Pakistan’s internal market.
In his speech, Khan also stated that Pakistan was a gas-short country, noting that the country’s gas pipeline project had been delayed due to US sanctions against the Russian corporation with which Pakistan was in talks. According to him, the removal of sanctions on Iran will enable Pakistan to obtain the “cheapest gas” from its neighbor.
“Pakistan does not want to join any bloc.” he claimed. When asked if it was a good moment for Pakistan to broaden its geopolitical horizons, Prime Minister Imran Khan answered, “It doesn’t bother us; we have bilateral relations with Russia that we genuinely want to strengthen.” He also emphasized that countries do not flourish in isolation, but rather as a complete area, citing the European Union as an example. On the other hand, the prime minister emphasized that increased collaboration between the United States, China, and Russia will help mankind far more than the war.
Ahead of Imran Khan’s visit to Russia, a Pakistani geopolitical analyst had pointed out that the visit did not come at a suitable time. Analyst and Balochistan politician Jan Achakzai said the most prominent aspect of this visit is that Russia did not invite, rather an invitation was sought.