ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan hit out on Sunday at Islamabad-based Western envoys who last week urged Pakistan to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, asking them if they thought Pakistan was their “slave”.
The heads of 22 diplomatic missions, including those of European Union member states, released a joint letter on March 1 urging Pakistan to support a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
The move to release the letter publicly was rare.
“What do you think of us? Are we your slaves … that whatever you say, we will do?” Khan said while addressing a political rally.
In the event, Pakistan, a traditional ally of the West, abstained from voting as the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly reprimanded Russia for invading Ukraine.
“I want to ask the European Union ambassadors: Did you write such a letter to India?” Khan said, noting that Pakistan’s arch-rival had also abstained.
Khan also said European countries had not censured India for its actions in Kashmir, a mountainous region over which Pakistan and India have fought two wars.
He said Pakistan had suffered because it had supported the Western NATO alliance in Afghanistan, and instead of gratitude faced criticism.
Khan and his government found themselves in the spotlight after he went ahead with a visit to Moscow in late February as fears of an invasion were growing, and met Vladimir Putin a few hours after the Russian president had ordered his troops into Ukraine.
“We are friends with Russia, and we are also friends with America; we are friends with China and with Europe; we are not in any camp,” Khan added, saying Pakistan would remain “neutral” and work with those trying to end the war in Ukraine.
On Friday, a Pakistani foreign office spokesman said it was “not usual diplomatic practice” for envoys to make appeals such as their letter public, “and we have made that clear”.
(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Kevin Liffey)