The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit will be an opportunity to speak to the Indian leadership, Prime Minister Imran Khan told Russian media outlet Sputnik in a recent interview.
India recently said PM Narendra Modi would not be meeting PM Khan at the summit.
He also said that Pakistan is looking for any kind of mediation in the batter, because it believes progress comes with peace. “When you have tensions with your neighbours, it detracts from resources that could be spent on human beings,” he explained, adding that a country then ends up spending on unproductive things like arms. It is my belief that the money should be spent on getting people out of poverty, like China got millions and millions of people out of poverty, he said.
The premier said he hopes to meet Russian leadership during conference in Bishkek in an informal meeting on the sidelines. He also hopes to deepen contact with the Russian military and are looking for arms from Russia. “I know our military is already in touch with the Russian military,” he said. But he hopes that Pakistan’s tensions with India decrease so that they don’t have to buy arms because they want to spend money on human development.
So our emphasis should be peace and resolving our differences through dialogue, said the premier. Now that the elections are over, we hope India will respond positively to our initiatives to further people-to-people contact, he said. “But, unfortunately, people-to-people contact only works when the governments also try to get closer. You can’t have a situation where the governments have animosity towards each other, and expect people to get closer. It does not happen.”
Pakistan is looking to expand trade with Russia in other areas as well, such as energy. That’s what we’re exploring, he said. “We hope our trade delegations will soon go to Russia. We will invite Russian trade delegations here, get them opportunities to invest in Pakistan,” said PM Khan. “I believe that there is a Russian steel company looking to invest in our steel mill in Karachi. In fact, it was made by Russia. The steel mill of Pakistan was made by the Russians a long time ago, I think in the 70s,” he said.
But his comments contradicted those made by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi earlier in the day. He said that Pakistan was ready to talk peace with India but wouldn’t chase after its neighbour. We gave a befitting response to India’s aggression in February, he said.
He also spoke about visa processes and said Russia will be one of 70 countries that can get visas at the airport. “Previously, Pakistan’s orientation was more towards the West. Now Pakistan is looking to diversify, find new markets or different relationships with those countries which we had very nominal relationships before,” he said.
PM Khan discussed the construction of a 700 km railroad connecting Uzbekistan, Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which he described as a “tremendous project” that will open up the whole region. But he said he couldn’t give a timeline for the project because it depends upon the amount of funds and peace in Afghanistan.