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20220321

Imran Khan used as 'Joker' in Putin's military operation against Ukraine

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was used as a "joker" as he was made a temporary scapegoat by Russian President Vladimir Putin to deflect attention when he was about to launch a military operation in Ukraine, writes Valerio Fabbri in his blog. While any other leader would have cancelled the visit at such a time to save himself from a difficult political positioning, Imran Khan played up his hand for domestic reasons, Fabbri writes citing analysts. For Imran Khan, a visit to Moscow in such a tumultuous situation must have looked like an ideal opportunity to reclaim a position he never enjoyed back home, however, the visit failed to serve its purpose and only increased Pakistan's wariness of the many geopolitical trade-offs that strategic closeness with Moscow entails. Further, Imran Khan risked Pakistan's relations with the Western countries by going forward with his visit to Russia amid the invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, it is yet to be seen if Putin will accept Khan's invitation to visit Islamabad later this year. If Putin accepts the invitation, he would be the first Russian leader to visit Pakistan. However, Russia's attempt to befriend Pakistan is unlikely to be of any great utility and might have the side effect of disappointing India, according to Fabbri, who added that Putin shall not forget Russia's historical relationship with India to make friends with Pakistan.Thus, Imran Khan would have little to remember or cherish about his two-day visit to Russia which concluded on February 24. The Pak cricketer-turned-politician who had arrived in Russia with hopes of expanding bilateral ties and cooperation in the energy sector was caught on the wrong foot when several questions were raised in Pakistani and global media over the timing of his visit. Considering the outcome of the visit, it did not prove fruitful as the separate press releases issued by the two sides after the visit did not mention the signing of any agreement or even a Memorandum of Understanding. After openly sharing his feeling of excitement on visiting Moscow in the midst of conflict, Imran had to conclude the visit by expressing regret over the situation developing between Russia and Ukraine. The overall outcome was in stark contrast to the Pakistani leader's expectations as he was hoping to push for the construction of a long-delayed PakistanStream Gas Pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies part from some small agreements. The sequence of events left Imran Khan isolated and prone to attack from media, political circles in Pakistan and the international community.

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