ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday he would like to have a televised debate with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, to resolve differences between the two neighbours.
“I would love to debate with Narendra Modi on TV,” Khan told host Oksana Boyko of ‘Russia Today’ in an interview, adding that it would be beneficial for the billion people in the subcontinent if differences could be resolved through debate.
“India became a hostile country so trade with them became minimal,” Imran Khan said, stressing his government’s policy was to have trade relations with all countries.
Imran Khan’s remarks follow similar comments recently by Pakistan’s top commercial official, Razzak Dawood, who, according to media, told journalists he supported trade ties with India, which would benefit both sides.
Imran Khan said Pakistan’s regional trading options were already limited, with Iran, its southwestern neighbour, under US sanctions and Afghanistan, to the west, involved in decades of war.
interview came on the eve of a visit to Moscow, where he will meet President Vladimir Putin — the first visit by a Pakistani leader to Russia in two decades.
The two-day visit for talks on economic cooperation was planned before the current crisis over Ukraine. “This doesn’t concern us, we have a bilateral relation with Russia and we really want to strength it,” Khan said of the Ukraine crisis.
Imran Khan said he did not believe in military conflicts and hoped Russia and Ukraine would be able to resolve their differences “peacefully.”
The comments were broadcast on Tuesday in an interview with Russian broadcaster RT, one day ahead of a scheduled visit by Khan to Moscow on the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Khan will be the first Pakistani prime minister to visit Russia in 23 years.
On Monday, Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognizing them as independent on Monday. Putin’s announcement drew US and European condemnation and vows of new sanctions.
With the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia lost control of 14 former republics it had previously dominated, but the loss of Ukraine was the most painful. Ukraine is the second biggest country in Europe after Russia itself, has major ports on the Black Sea and shares borders with four NATO countries. It is a major exporter of corn and wheat. Europe depends on Russia for about one third of its natural gas — providing leverage for Putin in any dispute with the West — and one of the main pipelines passes through Ukraine.
Putin, who once called the break-up of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the last century, has devoted his presidency to restoring Moscow’s influence throughout the post-Soviet space, defying the West and trying to reassert Russia as a global power.
Keeping the world guessing about a possible invasion of Ukraine has forced Russia’s security demands to the top of the international agenda and compelled US President Joe Biden to re-engage with Putin, although it has also drawn Western warnings of drastic international sanctions.
“I am not a believer in military conflicts, I believe the civilized societies resolve their differences through dialogue,” Khan said. “I am hoping that this Ukraine crisis is resolved peacefully.”
When asked if, given Ukraine tensions, this was the right time to visit Russia, Khan said “This doesn’t concern us, we have a bilateral relationship with Russia and we really want to strengthen it.”
He also said Pakistan didn’t want to become a part of any bloc and wanted a trading relationship with all countries.
Imran Khan said Pakistan did not want to become part of a particular bloc in the region but instead desired trading relations with all countries including Russia. He said Pakistan suffered in the past because of the politics of the blocs and did not want to repeat the mistake.
The prime minister said the last thing Pakistan wanted was the world to be divided into blocs. He said cooperation among regional powers including Russia, China, and even the United States could be in the interest of mankind.
Khan said Pakistan wanted to strengthen bilateral relations with Russia and looked forward to his visit to Moscow.
The prime minister said Pakistan was a gas deficient country and pointed out that North-South Gas Pipeline suffered delay because of the U.S. sanctions on the Russian company.
He said Pakistan was negotiating for the construction of the pipeline and also eyed buying the cheapest gas from the neighbouring Iran after lifting of the U.S. sanctions.
Imran Khan hoped for peaceful resolution of the Ukraine issue, emphasizing that military options could not prove as the right solution to conflicts.
“I am not a believer of military solutions but dialogues,” he said, adding that the same solution in Afghanistan for decades could not save the people of the country from suffering.
He said conflicts could have disastrous consequences on the people of poor countries, who already faced poverty in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
On ties with India, he said his government reached out to the government of India after the assumption of power in order to resolve the outstanding dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, he regretted that India was following a racist and supremacist ideology inspired by Nazism and denied resolving the issue of Kashmir.
Imran Khan termed climate change and illicit flow of money from poor to developed countries as the two major challenges faced by the world.
He mentioned that the plunder of the developing world continued as 1.5 trillion dollars every year was transferred illegally to offshore companies led to severe consequences globally including rising hunger and poverty.
The ruling elite of the world, he said, affected the process of accountability.
“The only way to remove the imbalance is to make laws to check drug money,” he said.
Asked how would he like to be remembered, he said he wanted to be the one who made a big change in the lives of the common people by bringing them out of poverty, ensuring rule of law, and building a humane socio-welfare society.
On Monday, Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzheppar tweeted that she had held a meeting with Pakistan’s Ambassador, retired Major Gen Noel Israel Khokhar, who had expressed support for her country’s sovereignty.
“Grateful to Pakistan for supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Dzheppar said on Twitter.