Is it just a coincidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not/could not agree to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the just-concluded
Belt and Road Forum in Beijing?
Bilateral meetings are common on the sidelines of international forums since it is convenient to arrange. It
was proclaimed by Foreign Office before the Prime Minister’s departure to Beijing that Imran would not only attend the Belt and Road forum but would also hold meetings with “Several Heads of state/governments and corporate and business leaders
on the sidelines of second BRF”. Contrary to the expectations 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 28th April 2019. However, the Prime Minister managed to have an audience with heads of
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The BRF was one of the major international meetings the cricketer-turned-politician
has attended after assuming charge as Prime Minister in August 2018. Pakistan’s government did request Russia for a meeting between the two leaders but it could not be materialized. The significance of a meeting between Putin and Imran at this
juncture cannot be overestimated. Apart from symbolism, it would have conveyed to the world community the extent of bonhomie, fraternity, and understanding between the two countries Russia and Pakistan.
Whom All Did Putin meet?
One may offer a justification that since Russian Leader was too busy
and his not able to meet just coincidental. But scrolling through the list of whom all he met, it becomes clear that paucity of time may not be the only reason. He met North Korea’s Chairman Kim, Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev, Serbia’s
President Vucic, Egypt’s President Sisi, Cyprus’s President Anastasiades, and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Suu Kyi apart from President Xi Jinping. In addition, he delivered a keynote speech and also held a press conference. Each of the
aforementioned events did definitely consume a finite fraction of Putin’s precious time. It’s surprising that he could grant an audience to Head of States of Serbia and Cyprus and not Pakistan’s!