Addressing a joint press conference following talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya, Prime Minister Imran said: “I want to say how sad I was that I couldn’t attend the conference in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of December. Unfortunately, our friends, who are very close to Pakistan as well, felt that somehow the conference was going to divide the ummah. It was clearly a misconception because that was not the purpose of the conference as evident from when the conference took place.”
Imran Khan’s Malaysia trip has gained an added sense of importance since it comes after last year’s fiasco when Pakistan, at the very last moment, refused to participate in the Kuala Lumpur summit due to Saudi pressure. Although Malaysia, despite knowing the reason for Pakistan’s failure to attend the summit, never showed any discernible annoyance, this Malaysia trip presents PM Imran with an opportunity to engage in some damage control in light of that decision.
Besides the economic significance and improvement of bilateral ties, this visit will also help determine the course of Prime Minister Imran’s foreign policy in the future since thus far it has been rather static and overly reliant on Riyadh and Washington. Malaysia, on the other hand, is not only leading the new Muslim bloc with Turkey but has also somehow managed to maintain ties with the Gulf countries and Saudia Arabia. So PM Imran, who has great respect for Mahatir, can learn a few diplomatic skills from him about how to nurture foreign relations on various fronts. Furthermore, given that Malaysia is one of the few countries which called out the Indian government’s actions in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK), it is imperative that PM Imran Imran values the Pakistan-Malaysia relationship.