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EDITORIAL: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s arrival in Moscow an hour before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a huge diplomatic disaster. Even when Pakistan’s political and diplomatic circles later on pointed out that the visit was pre-scheduled and had nothing to do with Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine the reaction in the Western world was extremely harsh.

About two dozen ambassadors based in Islamabad released a letter in calling upon Pakistan to make up for its blunder by taking a tough stand against Russia in the United Nations. Pakistan did not as Imran Khan quipped: “do they think we are slaves?” And that effectively froze Pakistan’s relationship with West.

Quite a few diplomatic scheduled visits to Islamabad were cancelled and there was a clear message that nobody from Pakistan government was welcomed in European capitals. That being the backdrop the visit of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock this week is rightly being described as an icebreaker even when it was cut short as she tested positive for Covid-19.

Germany is the largest trading partner of Pakistan within the European Union and the fifth-largest export destination for Pakistan. Apparently, Germany has taken note of change of government in Pakistan, and seems ready to revive bilateral relations and share its concerns over the regional imbroglios, particularly the humanitarian crisis in the Taliban-governed Afghanistan.

In her presser jointly addressed with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in Islamabad Annalena Baetbock said the Taliban had brought incredible suffering and hunger to the people of Afghanistan and this has “consequences outside of Afghanistan borders and that Pakistan would bear the brunt of them.” But she held the Taliban government responsible for the apocalypse and not the people, and therefore, she said that Germany would not forget or abandon the people of Afghanistan.

Pakistan, too, has rethought its policy with the European Union, particularly Germany, as Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said, “We are working towards a pivot in Pakistan’s diplomacy. We are encouraging reset of our relationships with countries. Our emphasis is on trade over aid, and our emphasis is encouraging economic cooperation”. And as for the war in Ukraine, Pakistan does not want to be dragged into conflict particularly given the fact that “we have just experienced Afghanistan”.

Of course there is considerable amount of concurrence between the two sides on bilateral and international is, but it is just logical that complete concurrence on issues and outlooks is never there, nor is expected.

For instance, the German foreign minister did voice concerns over the human rights situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, support the work of the United Nations, appreciate the LoC ceasefire, but conditioned positivity to “constructive approach and confidence-building measures” between Pakistan and India.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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