An investigative story published in The Washington Post discusses the implications of a leaked audio tape of a conversation between Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and State Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar regarding the Ukraine voting issue, which has become a subject of discussion in the paper’s investigative story.
According to the article, the leaked conversation revealed that Pakistan’s support for the measure would represent a shift in its position, which could jeopardize its trade and energy deals with Russia. The article further notes that the leaked documents, which provide rare insights into the private calculations of key emerging powers such as India, Brazil, Pakistan, and Egypt, highlight the challenges that US President Biden’s global agenda faces as major developing nations try to remain on the sidelines or exploit the intensifying standoff between the United States, Russia, and China for their own gain. The leaked intelligence findings also shed light on the obstacles that Biden faces in securing global support for his efforts to counter China’s growing global reach and reject the spread of authoritarianism, as influential regional powers try to straddle allegiances in an era when America is no longer the world’s unchallenged superpower. The article concludes with a memo titled “Pakistan’s Difficult Choices,” in which Khar warns against the instinct to preserve Pakistan’s partnership with the United States, arguing that it would ultimately sacrifice the full benefits of the country’s “real strategic” partnership with China.
Another document, dated February 17, describes Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s discussion with a subordinate regarding an upcoming UN vote on the Ukraine conflict, and the Pakistani government’s anticipation of renewed Western pressure to support a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion.
According to the intelligence document, the aide informed Sharif that endorsing the resolution would signal a shift in Pakistan’s position, given its previous abstention on a similar resolution. The aide also noted that Pakistan had the ability to negotiate trade and energy deals with Russia, and that backing the Western-backed resolution could jeopardize those ties.
When the UN General Assembly voted on February 23, Pakistan was among the 32 countries that abstained. However, Pakistani officials, along with those from other countries mentioned in the leaked documents, declined to comment.
While core US allies in Europe and East Asia have joined forces to support Biden’s Ukraine campaign by providing a growing array of weapons and reducing their reliance on Russian energy, the U.S. has encountered resistance in other parts of the world.
The Biden administration has reassured those countries that it is not asking them to pick sides between the US on one hand, and China and Russia on the other. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stressed this message during his travels. Nevertheless, nations such as South Africa and Colombia view this as an implicit choice.
During Blinken’s visit to South Africa last year, officials there informed him that they would not be pressured into making decisions that do not serve their interests. This is despite South Africa being another emerging power that recently held military exercises with Russia and may refuse a request by the International Criminal Court to arrest Putin if he attends a summit there later this year.
Likewise, India seemed to avoid taking sides between the U.S. and Russia during a conversation between Indian national security adviser Ajit Kumar Doval and his Russian counterpart, Nikolay Patrushev, on February 22, as another leaked document indicates.
The document states that Doval assured Patrushev of India’s support for Russia in multilateral forums, and that New Delhi was working to ensure that the war did not arise during a Group of 20 meeting chaired by India, despite “considerable pressure” to do so. At the meeting of G-20 foreign ministers in New Delhi a week later, the disagreement over Ukraine resulted in a failure to reach a consensus on broader global challenges.