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Qureshi emphasizes on enhancing connectivity to improve economy, cultural linkages

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has emphasized on enhancing connectivity to improve the economy and cultural linkages.

In his address at an event held at National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad on Tuesday, the foreign minister said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a great initiative in this regard that can be utilized not only to improve our economy but as a game-changer for the region.

The foreign minister said that being an important part of CPEC, Gwadar port holds a key position. He said that Pakistan welcomes the foreign investment in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under CPEC.

The following is the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s address titled “Contours of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and Challenges” at National Defence University;

 

“President National Defence University,

Distinguished faculty members and participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Assalam u Alaikum!

 It is a pleasure to interact with participants of the National Security & War Course.  National Defence University has established its credentials as a veritable cradle of leadership.

I am glad to see participants from several friendly countries coming together with civil and military officers from Pakistan. I am sure all of you will leave this course with your skills enhanced and having cultivated new friendships.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are living in “interesting times” indeed. The world is changing fast. Our challenge is to remain ever vigilant to adjust to new realities with a view to promote our national interests and to prevent any harm to them.

The relative predictability of the unipolar world has given way to rivalries that are more complex and potentially more dangerous.

Multilateral mechanisms are not living up to their promise of mediation and conflict resolution.

The UN system, never ideal to begin but immensely important for developing countries like Pakistan, is continually undermined by the very powers that crafted it.

Groupings like G-7 and G-20 seldom offer global solutions. The weaknesses of global institutions have further been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a tendency to lean towards smaller groupings to forge fluid, issue-specific partnerships to expedite cooperation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the shortcomings of the public health systems. It has also brought out the vulnerability of the global economic system and could be the harbinger of geo-political and geo-economic re-alignments.

In this backdrop, the power shift towards Asia seems to be accelerating. But the west is not idle and there are efforts to counter China and circumscribe its influence.

Islamophobia is on the rise.

The debt burden of developing countries, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic is staring us in the face.

Shutting down of economies and closure of borders has led to stricter migration polices around the world.

Countries like Pakistan hosting large number of refugees, face health and economic pressures. It is feared that this pandemic will permanently roll back globalization and compel countries to restrict the flow of people.

Pakistan’s foreign policy must respond adequately to these shifting trends. Keeping our interests supreme, we must navigate through this external environment to ensure that Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence are secured and its development agenda is advanced.

When Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office, we committed ourselves to a foreign policy centered around Pakistan’s priorities and needs as well as conflict resolution and to avoid being embroiled into conflicts of others.

We have tried to reinvigorate existing partnerships and establish new ones on the premise of mutuality of interest, transparency and respect for sovereignty. We have made economic diplomacy a core plank of this renewed outreach.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These broad principles have helped us craft a foreign policy which is much more receptive to the challenges of our times. Let me share with you some of our major policy responses to the shifting trends of today’s unpredictable world.

Pakistan lies at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East and China. Better connectivity is therefore essential to promoting our economic interests and reinvigorating our cultural and historical ties.

CPEC is a flagship undertaking in regard to connectivity. Pakistan sees this framework as a game-changer not only for itself but for the region as well. CPEC is a major plank of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Gwadar Port is one of the vital components of the CPEC framework. Why is Gwadar so important in this equation? Firstly, it is the world’s only natural deep-sea port, secondly, it links the BRI and the Silk Road projects, thirdly, being the shortest route to Central Asia and Afghanistan it is suited to act as a gateway for the region and fourthly, it is a potential regional trade hub from Europe to Eurasia.

So, we see Gwadar as the harbinger of immense possibilities for regional cooperation and common economic benefits.

Many countries have expressed interest in participating in CPEC. Pakistan is open to third countries investing in the Special Economic Zones being developed along CPEC. This would bring to fruition our vision of regional connectivity and common development.

Our expectation from CPEC and Gwadar is infrastructure development, employment opportunities and a boost for regional trade linkages. As I said, we consider CPEC a game-changer not just for us but for the region as well!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Afghanistan is part of a shared responsibility. Pakistan has played its role in promoting dialogue and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Despite the challenges, be it terrorism, the influx of refugees or the false narratives that have tested our resolve.

Pakistan had maintained all along that there was no military solution to the war in Afghanistan and that a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s own interest.

We have been steadfast in helping Afghanistan. Post-August 15th, we have facilitated the evacuation of more than 30,000 diplomatic and NGO staff and media persons of 37 countries and international organizations.

We had been reiterating that the withdrawal of international forces should be in tandem with progress in the Intra Afghan Negotiations. But the international forces withdrew in haste. 

The war has ended and the Taliban are in power in Afghanistan.

Pakistan believes that the biggest opportunity right now is the convergence of the international community on the need for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, spoilers are once again busy in efforts to shift the narratives against Pakistan.

Speaking of spoilers in the region, the greatest threat to our region and global security emanates from the Hindutva ideology that drives Indian officialdom.

Indian belligerence in February 2019 pushed South Asia to the brink of war.  Our response was to Confront, Deter and Douse the fire.  We were able to achieve all three objectives. We exercised our right to self-defence and demonstrated our capacity to foil any misadventure.

Pakistan has consistently held that sustainable peace in South Asia is contingent upon the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The onus remains on India to create a conducive environment for meaningful and result-oriented engagement with Pakistan.

Following India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019 under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s instructions, we took up the Kashmir cause world-wide with renewed vigour and determination and highlighted the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

We also exposed the threat posed to international peace and security by Indian belligerence at all available forums.

The UN Security Council has taken up the Kashmir situation three times in a year after a hiatus of 55 years. Pakistan remains determined to lend moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris until they realize their legitimate and inalienable right to self-determination as per UNSC resolutions.

Despite provocations from India, Pakistan opened up the Kartarpur Corridor in November 2019 giving Sikhs from India and all over the world, visa-free access to one of their holiest sites.

Our gesture is a manifestation of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision for the region and for Pakistan-India relations, which consists of peaceful co-existence, inter-faith harmony and peaceful resolution of disputes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Within our region, contact between Prime Ministers of Pakistan and Bangladesh bodes well for the improvement of bilateral relations.

Pakistan has long-standing friendly relations with other regional partners like Nepal and Sri Lanka, based on mutual trust, respect and sovereign equality. 

We are committed to preserving and strengthening our ties with the United States which are much valued and mutually beneficial.

We want to enhance understanding of our constraints and perspective with the US side.

Suffice it to say that we are cognizant of the importance of the US and want to conduct our relations in a pragmatic and non-emotional manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As for the Muslim Ummah, Pakistan has always strived to build bridges and promote dialogue even when the clouds of war were hovering over the Middle East.

We have broadened and deepened the scope of our traditional partnerships with Bahrain, Iran, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and UAE among others.

Following the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories in May 2021, Pakistan joined hands with Turkey, Sudan and Palestine for convening a special meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Pakistan has always maintained its principled support for a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders and Al Quds al Sharif as its capital.

As a founding member of OIC, Pakistan has remained actively engaged with the organization and the strengthening of its various institutions.

Pakistan hosts two important OIC institutions i.e. COMSTECH (the Ministerial Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation) and Islamic Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture. 

Pakistan-Saudi Arabia fraternity is deeply etched in the national consciousness of both nations. Our relations range from spiritual to strategic and economic.

Our Diaspora in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries notably the UAE is contributing to Pakistan’s economy with record remittances.

Our bilateral relations with Iran are rooted in history, religion, culture and a deep spiritual affiliation. We have maintained consistently excellent relations with Iran despite different pressures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have talked about Pakistan’s neighbours, long standing disputes, friendly and not so friendly bilateral relations. But I want to talk about Pakistan’s unique ties with our brother countries in Africa based on a shared commitment to peace.

Pakistan supported the freedom struggle of many African countries. Pakistan has been playing a key role in maintaining peace and security through UN peacekeeping missions particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, since the last 7 decades.

A large Pakistani Diaspora in Africa has facilitated exchanges in education, medicine, information technology and defence.

Now under the Engage Africa Initiative, we are opening up fresh avenues for economic diplomacy and win-win collaboration with our African friends.

Pakistan Africa Trade development conference in Nairobi in January 2020 was a major initiative in this regard.

Pakistan has opened up 5 new missions in Africa in Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda along with up-gradation of missions in Niger and Tanzania to Ambassadorial level.

Similarly, we have resolved to deepen our traditional friendly ties with partners in East Asia. There is a Vision East Asia policy that seeks to deepen economic and political engagement with East Asian partners.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For the first time in our country’s history, we have re-oriented the thrust of our diplomatic efforts towards economic benefit and prosperity of Pakistan. Economic Diplomacy is not just a buzzword, but a blueprint to leverage our diplomatic assets to further our development agenda.

We have put in place a “Strategic Engagement Plan” with the European Union and the “Strategic Economic Framework” with Turkey.

To explore untapped markets and opportunities, we have launched the “Engage Africa” Initiative. Going forward, our pivot towards Economic Diplomacy will gather further momentum as new avenues are opened, and existing ones gain greater traction. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have leveraged our partnerships to champion causes that impact the developing world.  Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first leader to highlight the link between unsustainable debt and the COVID-19 global pandemic. He forcefully put forth the need for debt relief for developing countries.

We are in the forefront of the fight against Climate Change, as well as efforts to check illicit financial flows.

Pakistan is the most vocal advocate of confronting and combating the rising tide of Islamophobia. Pakistan has raised this issue forcefully at various high-level platforms.

We are playing our role in shoring up multilateralism and the UN System, and are contributing actively to reforms at the UN that envisage a more inclusive and effective world body.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, pursuant to the instructions and in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, we are prioritizing the welfare of Overseas Pakistanis. One manifestation was the repatriation of 250,000 Pakistan nationals, the largest in the country’s history, from abroad, following the COVID-19 outbreak last year.

Furthermore, the Foreign Minister’s Portal has been expanded this month to facilitate and help the Pakistani Diaspora and improve service delivery of Pakistan’s Missions’ abroad.

This is reflective of Government’s policy of openness and accessibility towards the Pakistani Diaspora. We are also trying to simplify consular procedures.

I would like to conclude by saying that Pakistan is pursuing a proactive foreign policy sensitive to national aspirations and global dynamics. We have the resilience and experience to deal with the challenges posed by the unpredictable and rapidly changing international scenario.

Thank you.

I will now be happy to take questions.”

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