Islamabad: President Vladimir Putin has called off a scheduled visit to Islamabad, leading to the postponement of a quadrilateral summit of Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan planned for next month, officials said thursday.
Putin was expected to arrive in Pakistan on October 2 for a two-day visit that was being projected by Pakistani officials as an opportunity to reset bilateral ties, which have been strained since the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Officials said Putin had cancelled the visit without giving any reasons.
No fresh date for a visit was announced.
A statement issued by Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said the quadrilateral summit of Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which was planned in Islamabad during October 2-3, was "being rescheduled."
"New summit dates will be worked out after seeking convenience of the respective leaders through diplomatic channels," Khan said.
In a letter sent to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Putin expressed his eagerness to "jointly enhance our efforts to further develop Russian-Pakistani ties and advance mutually beneficial trade and economic projects," the statement said.
Putin wrote in the letter: "I am confident that in future we shall be able to find opportunities for arranging our personal meeting. We shall always be happy to receive you in Russia."
There was speculation that Putin`s decision to cancel his visit could be linked to Pakistan`s reluctance to award the work of building its section of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline to Russian energy giant Gazprom.
The chief of the Russian firm had recently visited Pakistan and made presentations to the Foreign Ministry and other departments.
However, Gazprom had wanted the project to be awarded to it without bidding, something that Pakistan is reluctant to do.
Russia had made a proposal in this regard when Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar visited Russia earlier this year.
Pakistani officials have said such a step would violate the rules of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.
A consortium headed by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has already refused to provide financial advisory services for the Iran-Pakistan project, mainly because of US opposition.