Russia and Pakistan on Thursday sought to put their relationship back on track after the hiccups following the cancellation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s much-awaited visit to Islamabad this week.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov flew into Islamabad on Wednesday on what his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar said was a “two-day notice” amid widespread disappointment in Pakistan’s policy circles over Mr. Putin’s last minute cancellation.
Asked what message Russia was trying to send Pakistan by cancelling the Putin visit at the eleventh hour — Islamabad was informed just last week — Mr. Lavrov said that there was no reason other than the President’s packed schedule. This was seconded by Ms. Khar who maintained that Pakistan should accept what the Russians are saying — that it was a scheduling problem.
Saying Pakistan was keen to have Mr. Putin here, she underlined that the bilateral relationship — which has evolved over the past one-and-a-half years — was by no means a one-visit association. And, to drive home her point that Russia was serious about the relationship, she disclosed: “Mr. Lavrov is with us on a two-day notice”.
Both Ministers described their talks as part of an ongoing exercise to explore avenues for cooperation at all levels including military, besides coordinated action on regional and international issues on which there was a convergence of opinion. According to Ms. Khar, the two sides also explored the possibility of a presidential meeting but she did not specify the venue.
To a pointed question on what Russia would do to help solve the Kashmir issue, Mr. Lavrov was categorical: “I don’t think any of the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan need external interference.”
Describing the diplomacy of both countries as “mature”, he welcomed the improvement in Pakistan’s relations with India.
Mr. Putin was scheduled to travel to Pakistan to attend the quadrilateral summit that includes Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Had the visit materialised, it would have been billed as a big feather in the cap of the Zardari dispensation, signalling a break from Pakistan’s earlier foreign policy which was completely aligned with the U.S — to the extent that many right-wing policy makers still take pride in having had a part in the breakdown of the former Soviet Union.
It is not just the civilian dispensation that is trying to steer away from the bitter history. Even as Mr. Lavrov was flying into Islamabad, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani headed off to Moscow on a scheduled visit that remained immune to Mr. Putin’s decision.
Visit follows cancellation of President Putin’s trip No interference in Kashmir, says Russian Foreign Minister
Visit follows cancellation of President Putin’s trip
No interference in Kashmir, says Russian Foreign Minister