The following is the full Statement by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting held on May 05, 2023 in Goa, India;
“Chairman of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers, Dr. S. Jaishankar,
Excellencies, Foreign Ministers of SCO Member States,
Secretary General of SCO,
Director, Executive Committee of SCO-RATS,
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Assalam-o-alaikum, peace be with you, and Good Morning!
It is an honor for me to represent Pakistan today at the SCO-CFM. Pakistan considers the SCO a key regional platform comprising countries, which are bound together by longstanding historical, cultural, civilizational and geographical ties. There couldn’t be a more powerful indication of the importance that Pakistan attaches to the SCO than my presence here in Goa for this CFM.
Pakistan strongly believes in and fully adheres to the principles of mutual trust, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and the pursuit of shared development enshrined in the original “Shanghai Spirit.”
These principles are in perfect alignment with Pakistan’s own vision of enhanced regional economic connectivity and win-win cooperation. We believe the SCO could be a key platform for taking this vision of Eurasian connectivity to the next level. Pakistan’s location at the crossroads of South Asia and the Middle East makes it an ideal trade conduit for the whole region.
Last year’s Samarkand Declaration made a timely call for building efficient transport corridors and reliable supply chains in the region. Investing in our collective connectivity capacities is crucial to advancing our shared vision for an economically integrated region. In that spirit, Pakistan looks forward to hosting the “Conference on Transport Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” in September 2023.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor can similarly be a force multiplier for regional connectivity. For too long, we have lamented the lack of connectivity between our economies – an impediment to regional trade and investment. CPEC does not only connect Pakistan to its neighbor China. CPEC offers all countries invested in the commonality of the future of this region to take the journey further and connect the dots towards full regional economic integration.
In a world facing geo-political flux, dividing the world between us and them – the SCO has emerged as a platform for promoting mutual understanding, security and development through constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation.
SCO’s increasing influence and relevance is confirmed by its growing appeal. With each passing year, more countries are joining the Organization either as Dialogue Partner or Observer or Full Member.
We congratulate brotherly Iran, which would soon become the newest member of the SCO family. We welcome the accession of Bahrain, Kuwait, Maldives, Myanmar and the United Arab Emirates as new Dialogue Partners. And look forward to welcoming Belarus as a full member in the near future.
In a bitterly divided world, humanity faces the greatest challenges we have ever faced. We’ve survived the COVID pandemic with our economies shaken; peoples patience tested; and many questions arising about our readiness to face the next global crisis.
The climate crisis poses an existential threat to humanity. Poverty haunts all societies and noble attempts to meet this challenge still have a long way to go. Finally, the situation in Afghanistan poses grave challenges but also offers some opportunities.
The solution to our collective challenges should be collective action, not a divided reaction. While our problems may seem immense, I believe as a united human race we have the capacity to not only deal with the challenges but to learn lessons for our collective good, and build in the resilience that will equip us to address future challenges. We must isolate these issues from hyper-partisan geopolitics if we are to succeed. Our excuse cannot be we were too divided to put up a fight!
Poverty still plagues this region. We can only overcome this challenge through common efforts and by learning from each other’s experiences. China offers us hope, shows us how it can be done – lifting 800 million people out of poverty in less than 40 years. Pakistan is proud of the internationally acclaimed Benazir Income Support Program which has ushered in a silent revolution of poverty alleviation together with women’s empowerment. Taking consistent strides on poverty eradication has been hampered by COVID and geo-political conflict. We need to set our priorities straight. To deliver to our people. To make poverty history.
Chest thumping about economic progress rings hollow when the largest number of poor people on the planet dwell within our collective borders. Given our experiences in this area, there is a very strong and compelling case for closer cooperation for poverty alleviation under SCO. The establishment of the Special Working Group on Poverty Alleviation proposed by Pakistan will be a step in that direction.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our planet can only be saved from the ravages of Climate Change if the international community works in unison. For Pakistan, this is today’s problem. We recently faced the greatest climate catastrophe we have ever witnessed. I ask you to imagine what it would mean for your people if a disaster of this scale were to proportionally afflict your country. What would one third of India’s land mass look like under water? How the people of China would be tested if 1 in 7 people were made climate refugees over night. This was a reality for my county, my people, just last year. We are rebuilding our lives at great cost and bracing for the inevitability of such a disaster striking again. I am proud of Pakistan’s leadership through our chairmanship of G77 + China, which helped advocate for loss and damage to be included on the agenda of COP27. However, this is too little, too late, and much more needs to be done. Especially by developed countries. We must hold the developed world up to their commitment of providing US $ 100 billion annually for climate finance. While Pakistan has emerged as an important voice in the global discourse on Climate Change in the aftermath of that natural calamity, it is encouraging to see that the SCO is also attaching greater importance to this critical issue. The Joint Statement to be issued by the Council of Heads of States on fighting Climate Change rightly calls for deepening cooperation in the areas of environmental protection. Pakistan would propose the establishment of a Joint Working Group in SCO on Climate Change.
The collective security of our peoples is our joint responsibility. Terrorism continues to threaten global security. Let’s not get caught up in weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring.
When I speak on this topic, I do so not only as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan whose people have suffered the most in terms of number of attacks and number of casualties. I also speak as the son whose mother was assassinated at the hands of terrorists. I feel the pain of this loss, empathize with victims across the world a way most can’t. I and my country are firmly committed to be part of regional and global efforts for eradicating this menace. This requires not only a comprehensive approach but also a collective approach. It demands we address the root causes as well as the threats posed by specific groups. It requires that we let this challenge unite us to fight it rather than divide us to become its victim. Our success requires us to isolate this issue from geo-political partisanship.
Practical, pragmatic solutions exist for us to put an end to this chapter once and for all. We must stop conflating non-state actors with state actors. Condemn all forms of terrorism including state sponsored terrorism. Given that many SCO members confront the menace of terrorism, often from the same terrorist groups, the SCO RATS needs to be further strengthened to effectively address the growing threats to peace and security in the SCO space.
The situation in Afghanistan presents new challenges as well as opportunities. We continue to call the international community to meaningfully engage with the Interim Afghan Government to better understand and influence the course of events. After being the play ground for great powers, time and time again, we owe it to the people of Afghanistan to not repeat the mistakes of the past. A united international community must continue to urge the Afghan authorities to adopt universally-accepted principles of political inclusivity, and respecting the rights of all Afghans, including girls’ right to education. The international community should also help build their counter-terrorism capacity for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world at large. It is alarming that terrorist groups within Afghanistan are cooperating amongst themselves more than we are as the international community. As the country that will be the first but not the last to suffer the consequences, Pakistan calls on the Interim Afghan Authorities to uphold their commitments on not allowing the use of Afghan soil for terrorism. It also calls on the international community to work towards addressing these security concerns to unlock the true potential of not only Afghanistan but the region as a whole. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is a key not only to regional integration and economic cooperation but also to global peace and stability. We believe the SCO Afghanistan Contact Group can play a role in coordinating practical cooperation with Afghanistan.
The SCO was established to ensure security across Eurasia. The organization stands for strict observance of the UN principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and people’s right to self-determination.
For its part, Pakistan remains committed to multilateralism and continues to play a leading role at all international forums, including the United Nations, for forging friendly relations among nations and supporting the peaceful settlement of longstanding international disputes.
I want to make a special mention of the commendable role China has recently played in bridging differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran – two countries that are also associated with the SCO. When great powers play the role of peace maker, we can unlock the potential of peace while paving the way for greater cooperation, regional integration and economic opportunities for our peoples.
We must ensure respect for these universally recognized principles within the SCO. Unilateral and illegal measures by States in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions run counter to the SCO objectives. We need to be unambiguous in keeping our commitments and charting out a new future for our people. One that is not based on conflict preservation but on conflict resolution.
We must also resolutely resist the temptation to stoke prejudice and discrimination to derive our identity. It is imperative that willful provocations and incitement to hate, especially on religious grounds, are roundly condemned. It is our collective duty to fight against fascism and historical revisionism that is leading to violent ultra nationalism anywhere in the world. We must ensure that racism and xenophobic ideologies, have no place in today’s world and fundamental human rights and freedoms are guaranteed to all.
I would like to conclude by reaffirming Pakistan’s unwavering support and commitment to the SCO’s goals and objectives. The SCO represents more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and almost a quarter of the world’s GDP. In other words, the SCO represents the future. And it can be a glorious and prosperous future for all us – if only we can work together to seize it.