ISLAMABAD: To offset the diplomatic setback caused by the unexpected cancellation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s much-anticipated visit, Pakistan will seek early rescheduling of Putin’s maiden trip when Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov meets top Pakistani leaders today (Thursday).
Lavrov arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday on a two-day tour as part of ongoing efforts to formalise the silent reset in Pakistan-Russia relations. The Russian president is believed to have sent his top diplomat to Islamabad in a bid to assure the Pakistani leadership that his decision to postpone his trip would not affect rapprochement efforts.
President Putin was due to attend a quadrilateral summit involving Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan planned for October 2-3 in Islamabad, but he cancelled what would be a landmark visit without giving any indication when, if at all, he would visit Pakistan.
There was also no statement from the Russian presidency or its ministry of foreign affairs on the trip cancellation.
A senior foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune that Islamabad is still pushing Moscow to agree on an early date for the first-ever visit by a Russian president to Pakistan in the six-decade long Islamabad-Moscow relations.
Foreign Minister Lavrov will hold formal talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar on a range of issues from bilateral economic cooperation to the Afghan endgame, said foreign ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan.
The spokesman said Pakistan and Russia have a “commonality of interests and views” on many regional and international issues, including the Afghan endgame.
The increased cooperation between the former Cold War rivals is believed to be closely watched in Washington. Some Pakistani officials suspect that the US might be behind the cancellation of Putin’s visit to Islamabad, saying the Americans fear such realignment would have far-reaching implications for Afghanistan.
Lavrov’s visit coincides with army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s trip to Moscow, where he is expected to discuss the current regional security situation with his Russian counterpart.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2012.