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UK-Pakistan relations hit a new low over Ukraine

Murtaza Ali Shah

The diplomatic relations between the UK and Pakistan have hit a new low as two important visits have been cancelled, following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Ukraine and his recent speech condemning the Western countries.
The News has learnt through credible sources in both the UK and Pakistan administrations that diplomatic relations at this point of time have cooled off to the extent that the UK government has cancelled two important visits after Prime Minister Imran Khan met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the day Russia started assault of Ukraine and then Prime Minister Imran Khan’s blistering speech five days ago in which the prime minister said Western diplomats were treating Pakistan like “slaves” by pushing for tougher stance on Russia.
Sources have shared that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech caused an alarm in the UK as it has been one of the biggest donors to Pakistan through the Department for International Development (DfID) and UK’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner was called over to London for the briefings, according to the credible sources.
They shared with this reporter that Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yousuf’s official visit to the United Kingdom for a meeting with UK’s National Security Adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove was cancelled by the UK government to protest Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Russia, both Pakistani and the UK sources confirmed.
This week, a high-powered delegation of the UK administration was supposed to visit Pakistan for talks on various issues, but that visit has been called off, said the UK government source, who confirmed that the message was conveyed to Pakistan.
Moeed Yousuf, according to the Pakistani source, was scheduled to meet the UK National Security Adviser, senior ministers at the Foreign Office as well as a meeting with a senior official of the British Army during his four-day visit, including an address at the London School of Economics (LSE) annual Pakistan Society event.
After the visit was cancelled, Moeed Yousuf addressed the London event through zoom. During his speech, the Pakistan NSA rejected as false the news that the UK govt had cancelled the meeting with him. He didn’t elaborate why he didn’t come to the UK. The News sent him questions, but he didn’t respond.
The UK and Pakistan sources shared that NSAs of both countries were scheduled to discuss Afghanistan-related issues, but the UK told Pakistan that Afghanistan was off the discussion and the focus has shifted to Ukraine and that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit and his remarks were not helpful to the current situation.
The source shared those tensions are so heightened that the UK government called over UK’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner for a briefing in relation to the new situation, including the UK-Pakistan relations. The source said Turner has briefed his government policy makers during the London briefings where the UK’s aid to Pakistan came under discussion too and a new policy in this regard will be announced soon.
Pakistan has conveyed to the UK that it was pursuing a neutral position in the Russia-Ukraine war and had no favourites and that dozens of countries, including UK’s strong allies, have abstained from condemning Russia over its Ukraine adventure, shared the Pakistani source, who was involved in arranging Moeed Yousuf’s meeting.
The UK govt source shared that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s public condemnation of the European nations have caused unease amongst the countries, especially Britain, which has often supported Pakistan at various international forums.
The Pakistani source shared that Pakistan has decided to follow an independent foreign policy and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Russia and his latest public statements reflect Pakistan’s new approach. The source said Pakistan is not against any country and has the right to follow its own policies.

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