Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Quest for Peace, Stability and Shared Prosperity
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be back at the Asia Society. Your mission of forgoing closer ties between Asia and the West, amplifying Asian voices and promoting deeper understanding of the issues at the heart of the Asian region is all the more relevant in these changing and challenging times.
Today’s world faces multiple trans-national threats and challenges that require a united stand and collective efforts to deal with. Recognizing this imperative, our foreign policy is rooted in the principles of mutually beneficial cooperation, peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, and shared economic development.
These principles form the bedrock of our close ties with friends and partners around the world and translate into our proactive and positive role in multilateral organizations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Pakistan’s relations with the United States are one of the most consequential of our bilateral relationships. From our independence onwards, we have partnered with the US in promoting regional and global peace, stability and prosperity.
During the past year and a half, two important transformations have taken place in Pakistan-US relations. First, while security and Defense cooperation remains an important pillar, equal emphasis is being laid by both sides to strengthen cooperation in non-security areas like trade and investment, climate change, energy, health, agriculture, IT and tech sector. Second, the relationship now stands de-hyphenated from all other bilateral ties and both sides are focused on tapping the inherent potential of standalone bilateral relations.
These two transformations together provide us the ideal launching pad to enter a new era in our bilateral relationship.
Over the decades, and more so in recent years, the Pakistani-American community has been tirelessly complementing our efforts to strengthen Pakistan-US ties. We acknowledge their important role not only of a crucial bridge between our two countries and societies but also of an invaluable catalyst for Pakistan’s socio-economic progress through their investments, remittances and philanthropic work.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Economic Development lies at the top of our national priorities. To achieve that, regional peace and stability are imperative. Peaceful neighborhood is also essential for us to optimally utilize the potential offered by regional connectivity initiatives.
After Afghanistan itself, Pakistan has the greatest stake in an Afghanistan that is at peace within and with its regional and international partners. This objective lies at the heart of our efforts to directly engage with the Afghan Interim Government (AIG) as well as cooperate with the international community on Afghanistan.
We are hosting millions of Afghan refugees for decades and will continue to work with the Afghan authorities and the International community to ensure that a day will come soon when these refugees will be able to return to Afghanistan with honor and dignity.
We share the international community’s concerns over human rights situation in Afghanistan, especially issues related to women rights, girls education and women’s employment. We will continue to raise these issues with the Afghan Interim Government. We believe that instead of coercive measures, engaging the AIG is much more likely to deliver results. Equally important is to avert humanitarian crises in Afghanistan. De-linking aid from political considerations holds the key in this regard.
We remain steadfast in our commitment to fight terrorism and extremism. We condemn all forms and manifestations of terrorism including state terrorism against occupied people and state sponsored violence against religious minorities. We also reject any attempt to politicize the issue of terrorism by linking it with certain countries, communities, regions or religions. The entire global community is the victim and we have to act together to uproot this menace.
For Pakistan, the biggest concern right now is the enhanced terrorist threat from TTP and ISIS-K, and their ability to use Afghan soil for launching attacks on Pakistan. We remain closely engaged with AIG on this issue. While we are committed to fighting and defeating the terrorists, we wish to highlight that terrorist outfits trying to gain a foothold in Afghanistan should be treated as a threat to the neighborhood and entire international community.
Pakistan desires peaceful and cooperative neighborly ties with India. Unfortunately, Pakistan positive outreach and peace overtures, including my predecessor’s visit to India for SCO meeting, have been met with negativity.
India’s illegal actions in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and abhorrent human rights violations of innocent Kashmiris at the hands of Indian security forces have further deteriorated relations. Worsening religious extremism in India, especially against Muslims, has further complicated the situation. In such a complex environment, objectives of regional peace and stability call for peaceful constructive dialogue on all outstanding issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. India’s belligerence and anti-Pakistan rhetoric for domestic electorate are taking us farther away from these objectives.
Pakistan’s relations with China are historical and anchored in strong trade and economic ties. China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner and a major investor, especially in infrastructure and energy sectors. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project that aims at enhancing connectivity and improving infrastructure.
I must underscore that Pakistan’s relations with China are not a zero-sum game and not at the expense of our relations with any other country, least of all with the U.S. with which we have robust ties. We believe we can have close and cooperative relations with both US and China. Having acted as a bridge between the two countries in the past, we remain convinced that stable and cooperative relationship between US and China is instrumental for global growth, development, and security.
Pakistan’s position on the Ukraine crisis is dictated by our belief in amicable resolution of conflicts and respect for UN Principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty. We will continue to play a constructive role to help end the war and mitigate the suffering of the Ukrainian people. We hope that peace would prevail to allow people of both Russia and Ukraine to enjoy its dividends. We also believe that mitigating the impact of this crisis on global food and energy security is critical and hope for early resumption of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
We recognize the importance of international cooperation for global peace and prosperity. To that end, Pakistan has always been a strong advocate for multilateralism, believing that through dialogue and diplomacy, we can resolve conflicts, alleviate poverty, and achieve sustainable development. We have been actively involved in United Nations peacekeeping missions, contributing our troops to promote peace in conflict-ridden regions.
Pakistan also considers arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts as vital tools to promote the goals of peace and security at the global and regional levels Pakistan has always advocated the need for inclusive forums for deliberations and negotiations, taking into account the security interests of all States. Pakistan has been a leading voice for the reform of the Security Council to make it more democratic, inclusive and accountable through reform of its membership and improvement in its working methods.
Climate change is another pressing global challenge. As last year’s devastating floods bear testament, Pakistan has been on the receiving end of the worst impacts of climate change despite being one of the lowest contributors to global warming. We are doing our part to combat it by investing, with the help of our friends like the US, in reconstruction, tapping renewable energy, reforestation, and sustainable agriculture practices.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are committed to moving our economy to macroeconomic stability and sustainable growth and are undertaking ambitious reforms to realize our vision. Pakistan’s priorities are to attract investment, improve ease of doing business, and streamline regulatory regime. To facilitate investment in the priority areas of agriculture, information technology, mining, and renewable energy, we have established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) to serve as a single window platform to create a salutary environment for foreign direct investment and to fast track approval of projects.
Let me conclude by reiterating that Pakistan is committed to playing its part in the comity of nations to address the pressing challenges of our time and realize its vision for peace, stability, justice, equity, and share prosperity.