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Photo Source: The Express Tribune

Pakistan Reader# 631, 26 July 2023

Pakistan’s Food Security and the Black Sea Grain Deal Will Pakistan be able to balance between Europe and Russia?



Balancing act between Europe and Russia with regards to the situation in Ukraine

Sandra Sajeev D Costa

On 20 July, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for the restoration of the Black Sea grain initiative. The Black Sea grain deal enabled export of commercial food and fertilizer from Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi.
According to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pakistan imported an aggregate of 1 million ton of wheat in 2021. With the war in Ukraine, Pakistan faced disruptions and relied on Russia during 2022-23. Its wheat exports with the Russia grew eightfold and Pakistan became the fifth largest importer of Russian wheat as it acquired 1.5 million tonnes of wheat.
 
As of March 2023, Pakistan faced a net wheat deficit crisis of 2.37 million, even when its local mills provided wheat domestically. Pakistan had to rely more on other countries to make up for internal shortage with its wheat consumption increasing annually.
 
While Pakistan is receiving shipments and support from Russia, Islamabad’s foreign policy position on Black Sea Grain deal places its self-interest in front. Foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said: “We have a vested interest in promoting peace and reconciliation and hope for a peaceful resolution through dialogue and diplomacy.” Ukraine’s foreign minister acknowledged and said “I was happy to hear from Bhutto-Zardari that Pakistan will engage in this matter with the United Nations and European Union as facilitators of the Black Sea grain initiative.”
 
Will Pakistan be able to balance between Europe and Russia?
Pakistan holds a neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Islamabad established diplomatic relations with Ukraine in 1992. Pakistan has also been providing humanitarian support to Ukraine. It was close to the Western bloc during the Cold War.
 
The EU which condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine, is Pakistan’s second-largest trading partnerOn the other hand, Pakistan recently received shipment of oil from Russia. Pakistan had to balance its relationship between the EU and Russia. Hosting Ukriane’s foreing ministeris a part of this balancing process.
At the bilateral level, Pakistan and Ukraine has a history of defense cooperation;several media reported of Pakistan supplying arms to Ukraine. This has been denied by Bilawal but the possibility that this might be done through a third country cannot be ruled out so that there is no retaliation from Russia.
Pakistan being at brink of food, insecurity, economic and political turmoil, the Black Sea Grain deal stands pivotal for the revival of Pakistan into stability.

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