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Ukraine’s peace summit seems to be a test case for Pakistan: China and Russia are not attending it

Days before Switzerland hosts a global summit to chart a path toward peace in Ukraine, Pakistan faces a dilemma: should it attend?

Pakistan has maintained neutrality regarding Russia’s war on Ukraine. Analysts believe Pakistan, with its population of 236 million, has significant interests at stake—from Ukrainian weapons to Russian oil—making attendance at the summit crucial.

However, some caution that Pakistan’s decision might be influenced by China’s move to boycott the summit, a decision also taken by Russia. China remains Pakistan’s most important strategic partner today.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry confirmed last month that it received an invitation from Swiss authorities for the two-day summit in Lucerne starting June 15, but has yet to decide on participation. “Still under discussion,” Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told Al Jazeera via WhatsApp.

More than 160 countries have been invited to the summit, requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. At least 90 countries have confirmed participation, but Moscow and Beijing will not be attending.

Tughral Yamin, a former military official and senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad (IPSI), emphasized the importance of Pakistan’s attendance.

“Pakistan must attend the summit. It has stakes in the war. We have strong defense relations with Ukraine, and we are trying to build strong ties with Russia, which can provide us oil, so attending makes complete sense,” he told Al Jazeera.

Fahd Humayun, an assistant professor of political science at Tufts University, agreed, highlighting Pakistan’s stance for ending the war while maintaining neutrality.

“There is the imperative of not wanting to be seen as aligned with any one party,” he said. “However, since this is a peace summit, Pakistan has an opportunity to voice its stance on an important regional issue and signal that its attendance does not equate to taking sides in the conflict,” Humayun told Al Jazeera.

“It will signal that we are partners in de-escalating a global conflict, rather than picking sides. That point can be deftly signaled in advance to all stakeholders,” he added.

Pakistan’s balancing act between Russia and Ukraine has historical context. Pakistan has cultivated strong ties with Ukraine since the breakup of the Soviet Union, purchasing several high-value Ukrainian weapons systems, including tanks. Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that Ukraine supplied weapons worth nearly $1.6 billion to Pakistan until 2020.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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