The many developments happening in South Asian and Eurasian regions indicate the rise of regionalism due to geo-strategic necessities and politico-economic compulsions of the countries situated in these regions. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to the Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan Imran Khan to join the Easter Economic Forum meeting in September this year is a case in point that shows the growing trends of regionalism in broader Asia and Eurasia.

While the meeting will hopefully further improve the bilateral relations between Moscow and Islamabad that have seen a thaw in recent years, the timing of revelation of the meeting between the leaders of Russia and Pakistan is a slick diplomatic move. The announcement of the meeting between Russian President and Pakistani PM only after that of Trump and Khan meeting can be seen as Islamabad’s strategic balancing act between Moscow and Washington. Probably Islamabad wants to deal with the cold war rivals the way it is dealing Riyadh and Tehran: by remaining neutral and avoiding becoming a pawn of one power against the other.

That said, the meeting could also help PM Khan to gain some insight on handling the Afghanistan peace process that has entered in its seventh round. PM Khan and his team that will be accompanying him need to learn lessons from the Moscow meeting with the Taliban, which can be called as the only partially successful engagement with the Taliban so far.

However, the actual purpose of the Eastern Economic Forum is the enhancement of business ties of Russia with other nations. Here lies the actual test for Islamabad. On the one hand, Pakistan is a partner in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). On the other, PM Khan will be exploring business opportunities beneficial for Islamabad in Moscow come September. Because Russian venture competes with China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, Khan will need to make manoeuvres to remain neutral between Beijing and Moscow.