New York, May 20 (PTI) There was no possibility that Imran Khan would have known about Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine when he visited Moscow, Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said, as he defended the ousted premier’s controversial visit to meet President Vladimir Putin nearly three months ago.
Khan met President Putin in the Kremlin on February 24, the day the Russian leader ordered a “special military operation” against Ukraine. By visiting Moscow, he had also become the first Pakistani premier to visit Russia in 23 years after former premier Nawaz Sharif travelled to Moscow in 1999. But Khan’s visit to Moscow, despite US attempts to dissuade him, further soured Islamabad’s relations with Washington.
“As far as the former Prime Minister’s (Khan) trip to Russia, I would absolutely defend the former prime minister of Pakistan. He conducted that trip as part of his foreign policy and without knowing that — no one is psychic, no one has a sixth sense — there’s no way we could have possibly known that that would be the time [when] the current conflict will start,” Bilawal said while addressing the press at the UN headquarters on Thursday, and added that “it is very unfair to punish Pakistan for such an innocent action.” Bilawal, who took charge last month as the foreign minister, reiterated that Islamabad continued to stand by the principles of the United Nations, including the non-use of force, when asked about the way forward in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
In March, Pakistan had abstained from voting in United Nations General Assembly resolution calling on Russia to stop the war, and urged that the conflict be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.
“We are not part of any conflict. We do not wish to be part of any conflict. In fact, we continue to emphasise on the importance of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve this conflict as soon as possible. And we will certainly not take any side or take the side of the aggressor within this context,” Bilawal, who is on his first major international visit after assuming charge last month, said.
Khan, the 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, has been adamant that he was ousted from power last month through an alleged US-backed vote of no-confidence since Washington did not like his Russia policy. These claims were strongly refuted by the US. Meanwhile, Bilawal is currently on a maiden visit to the US at the invitation of the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to attend the ministerial meeting on the “Global Food Security Call to Action”.
On Wednesday, Bilawal met Blinken at the UN headquarters and talks focussed on bolstering regional security and strengthening bilateral and economic ties. In his remarks before his meeting with Bilawal, the first face-to-face interaction between the two ministers, Blinken said Washington is “very pleased” to be working with the foreign minister and with a new government in Pakistan.
Bilawal also met Congressman Adam Smith, Chairman, US House Armed Services Committee, and briefed him on the situation in Kashmir.