Pak PM Shehbaz and Putin exchange letters to strengthen bilateral relations (report)

Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Russian President Vladimir Putin have quietly exchanged letters to bolster bilateral ties, a news outlet reported on Sunday, amid allegations by Imran Khan that his first visit to Moscow, well against the Washington’s will, would have led to his ouster.

The letters were exchanged after Shehbaz was elected prime minister, but both sides kept the development away from media scrutiny in what appeared to be a move to avoid public scrutiny, the report reported. The Express Tribune newspaper.

A senior Pakistani foreign ministry official confirmed to the newspaper that President Putin had written a letter to the prime minister, congratulating him on his election.

The official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Putin had expressed his desire to deepen cooperation between the two countries.

A day after his appointment as Pakistani Prime Minister, President Putin sent a congratulatory message to Sharif which was made public by the Kremlin press office.

Our countries maintain friendly and constructive relations. I hope that as Prime Minister you will seek to further promote closer multifaceted cooperation between Russia and Pakistan, as well as partnership in Afghan settlement and the fight against international terrorism, Putin said on 12 april.

Shehbaz replied to Putin thanking him for his congratulatory message and expressed similar sentiments on bilateral relations between the two countries as well as cooperation in Afghanistan, The Express Tribune reported.

The exchange of letters came as former Prime Minister Khan is adamant he was ousted from power in an alleged US-backed vote of no confidence because Americans did not like his visit to Moscow to meet President Putin on February 24, the day the Russian President ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

Khan has repeatedly said the United States does not want him to visit Russia and President Joe Biden’s national security adviser called his national security adviser Moeed Yusuf, urging him to call the visit. of the Prime Minister in Moscow.

On Saturday, Khan again alleged that Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, held a meeting with senior US diplomat Donald Lu, during which the latter used undiplomatic language.

“I’m going to step forward and say he (Donald Lu) was arrogant. Administration official Joe Biden told our ambassador that Imran Khan will have to be removed through a motion of no confidence” , he said, adding that the meeting had taken place. before the motion of no confidence was tabled by the opposition parties.

Chairman of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party said the US official told the Pakistani ambassador that all would be forgiven if he was removed from office.

The US State Department has repeatedly dismissed Khan’s claims that Washington plotted regime change in Islamabad with the help of Pakistan’s opposition parties.

On Friday, the US State Department’s senior deputy spokeswoman, Jalina Porter, said the US had always said there was “absolutely no truth to these rumours”, as alleged by Khan. She also welcomed a statement from Pakistan’s national security on Friday that dismissed Khan’s claim of a “foreign plot” to oust him.

Meanwhile, The Express Tribune report noted that President Putin’s congratulatory message to Prime Minister Sharif suggested that the process of building a relationship between Pakistan and Russia would continue under the new political regime.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry officials said resetting ties with Russia was a decision taken by the state a long time ago, given shifting regional and international alignments.

That process, officials said, would continue but without much fanfare for some time given the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

The Russian Embassy in Islamabad, using its Twitter account, congratulated Shehbaz on April 12 and expressed hope that ties between the two countries would grow under his government.

Unlike the previous government of Imran Khan, the new government will push to restore ties with the West, especially with the United States. Sources said Pakistan’s relations with the West and the United States had been damaged because of the former prime minister’s rhetorical statements, according to the report.

Sharif would avoid such an approach rather than work quietly to advance the country’s foreign policy interests. Emphasis would also be placed on relations with the European Union, one of Pakistan’s main trading partners.

Pakistan’s ties with Russia have moved beyond Cold War hostilities in recent years, and the chilling relationship between Pakistan and the United States has pushed the country further towards Russia and China.

The two countries are not only exploring options to deepen their economic relations, Russia is also keen on selling arms to Pakistan, which it has avoided in the past due to opposition from India.

Pakistan and Russia have already held regular joint military exercises since 2016, another sign of deepening ties between Moscow and Islamabad. They also share the same view on major regional and international issues, including Afghanistan.

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