LONDON :(Web desk)- Pakistan’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Moeed Yusuf’s official visit to the United Kingdom for a meeting with UK NSA and other officials was unilaterally withdrawn by the British Government in the aftermath of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Russia and his meeting with President Vladimir Putin, sources in UK and Pakistan have confirmed.
Sources have confirmed that the visit – which was scheduled to take place from March 5 onwards – was going to be about the Afghanistan situation and other related matters but the “focus” in the UK has shifted towards the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Therefore, the UK has conveyed its reservations to Pakistan for not condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine and for visiting Putin on the day Russia launched an assault on Ukraine.
A source in the UK government said that tensions have “heightened to the extent that the UK government called over UK’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner for a briefing in relation to the new situation including UK-Pakistan relations.”
The source said that Turner has briefed his government’s lawmakers, and during the talks, UK’s aid to Pakistan also came under discussion 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,” adding that “dozens of countries, including UK’s strong allies, have abstained from condemning Russia over its Ukraine adventure, the Pakistani source who was involved in arranging Yusuf’s meeting said.
Sources said that the UK conveyed the message to Pakistan on March 1 that NSA’s visit will not go ahead anymore due to the situation unfolding in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the unease in relations between the two countries — Pakistan and the UK — as it would be useless to visit where the focus is on issues that are “less important from Pakistan’s viewpoint.”
Sources privy to the matter said that Yusuf was scheduled to meet the UK National Security Advisor, senior ministers at the foreign office, and meet a senior official of the British army.
He was also supposed to speak at the London School of Economics (LSE) annual Pakistan Society event in person, along with Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah. The Supreme Court chief justice attended the LSE conference but Yusuf spoke over the phone to the conference and rejected the impression that the UK had cancelled the meeting with him. He said that “such news was baseless.”
The Pakistani source further said that Pakistan has decided to follow an independent foreign policy and PM Imran Khan’s visit to Russia and his latest public statements are a reflection of Pakistan’s new approach.
Another source revealed that Yusuf’s visit was cancelled after it was realised that the UK was “not interested in what Pakistan was going to discuss and Pakistan was not interested in what the UK had to talk about.”