As the West pushes to isolate Russia economically for its offensive in Ukraine, Pakistan has become the first country to strike a trade deal with Moscow after the assault on Ukraine began. Amid criticism from various quarters, Pakistani PM Imran Khan has defended his trip in a televised address, saying it served his country’s economic interest. ”We went there because we have to import 2 million tons of wheat… we have signed agreements with them to import natural gas because Pakistan’s own gas reserves are depleting,” said Khan. He shared no detail of his meeting with President Putin, other than “time will tell that we have had great discussions”. Pakistan wants Russia to build a 1,100-kilometre-long gas pipeline from Karachi to Kasur in Punjab. The $2.5 billion project is tentatively slated to begin next year. An initial agreement was first signed in 2015 and a second one inked in 2021. Now the Pakistani government is keen on getting things started on the ground. Aware of the bad publicity over the visit, the Pakistani establishment has repeatedly tried to justify the timing, saying the trip was planned in advance. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was part of the trip, said the U.S. had got in touch with Pakistan before the Moscow visit.
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