In an embarrassment to Islamabad, Russia has officially clarified that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has not been invited for the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) to be held in the Russian city of Vladivostok in early September.
Officials in the Pakistan foreign office recently told the local media that Khan will attend the EEF as the ‘Guest of Honour’ since he was invited to the forum by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek last month.
This came as a major surprise in Indian official circles since Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend the EEF as the chief guest. The EEF will be followed by the India-Russia annual summit between Modi and Putin.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has now issued a formal clarification, saying: ”We draw attention to the publication in a number of South Asian media that the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan was invited to the events of EEF in Vladivostok (4-6 September) as the guest of honor. We would like to give some explanation in this regard… we expect that the President of Mongolia H Battulga, Prime Minister of India N Modi, Prime Minister of Malaysia M Mohammad and Prime Minister of Japan S Abe will arrive in the capital of Primorye.” This is being seen as a clear attempt by Moscow to snub Pakistan for distorting facts.
Diplomatic sources, meanwhile, said Russia was looking forward to Modi’s visit to Vladivostok as it was keen on investments by Indian companies in the resource-rich region. Putin’s Advisor Anton Kobyakov had on Monday met Indian Ambassador to Russia B Venkatesh Varma to discuss preparations for the EEF. Two top aides of President Putin would also be visiting New Delhi this week to as part of the preparations.
Sources also stated that an attempt was being made by the Pakistani media to give an impression that the country’s premier had established a close rapport with Putin during the SCO Summit.
Sources said Putin did exchange pleasantries with Khan on quite a few occasions during the summit but there was nothing unusual about their interaction. ”It’s quite natural for any two leaders to exchange notes when they stand next to each other or sit together at a multilateral meet… one should not read too much into such interactions,” they added.