Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Friday, 02 April, 2021
[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.
I wish to begin with the 9th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) Ministerial Conference, held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi led the Pakistan delegation.
The overall theme of the Conference was “Strengthening Consensus for Peace and Development.”
In his remarks at the Ministerial Conference, the Foreign Minister highlighted Pakistan’s positive contributions to the Afghan Peace process, and its support for Afghanistan’s development and connectivity within the regional framework.
He underscored the need for an inclusive, broad-based & comprehensive negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan.
The recommendations made by the Foreign Minister included:
Consolidating and building upon the progress made through the Doha Process;Preserving the international community’s investment and the consequent development gains over the years;Ensuring orderly and responsible withdrawal of troops;Ensuring reduction in violence and ceasefire;Culminating the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in a sustainable political solution;Securing the international community’s financial engagement to support Afghanistan in its post-conflict path to progress;Planning long-term reconstruction and economic development for Afghanistan; andCreating pull factors for the Afghan refugees to return to their homeland with dignity and honor through a time-bound and well-resourced plan.
On the sidelines of the Conference, the Foreign Minister also held bilateral meetings with the President of Afghanistan, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, and the Foreign Ministers of Iran, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.
During these meetings, the Foreign Minister discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, with particular focus on Afghanistan.
The Foreign Minister outlined Pakistan’s consistent position on the Afghan conflict and its continued support for the Afghan Peace Process.
The Foreign Minister also held bilateral meetings with the leadership of Tajikistan.
The Foreign Minister called on the President of Tajikistan, Chairman of the Lower House of the Tajik Parliament and the Defence Minister.
In addition, he also held extensive delegation-level talks with the Tajik Foreign Minister.
During the wide-ranging interactions, discussions were held on enhancing collaboration between the two countries in diverse areas including political, economic, trade, energy, tourism, defense, culture, connectivity and early completion of the CASA-1000 project.
It was agreed to optimally utilize the existing institutional frameworks including Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) and multiple Joint Working Groups (JWGs) to further the bilateral relations.
In the regional context, Foreign Minister Qureshi highlighted Pakistan’s positive contributions towards peace process.
The Foreign Minister concluded his visit by visiting the monument of Ismail Somoni, to pay homage to the founder of the Tajik nation.
Like every year, “Pakistan Day” was celebrated on 23rd March across the country and the world with great zeal and fervor.
In keeping with the long-held tradition, a joint-services parade was held in Islamabad and a 21-gun salute was offered on the occasion.
The Pakistan Day was also observed with great enthusiasm in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK).
In addition, Pakistan Missions around the world organized various activities in collaboration with the Pakistani Diaspora to commemorate Pakistan Day.
In their messages on the occasion, the President, Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister paid rich tribute to the founding fathers and other heroes of the Pakistan Movement and renewed the resolve to make Pakistan a progressive and prosperous country.
Prime Minister Imran Khan received a telephone call from Prince Salman Bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Bahrain.
The two leaders shared their perspectives on host of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest. Views were also exchanged on further enhancing cooperation between the two brotherly countries.
The Prime Minister also received a telephone call from the Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, His Royal Highness Mohammed Bin Salman.
The Prime Minister lauded the transformational “Green Saudi Initiative” and the “Green Middle East Initiative” recently announced by the Crown Prince.
He also highlighted Pakistan’s “10 billion Tree Tsunami” Initiative, which is underway in the whole country, and its potential dividends to restore ecosystem and to combat climate change.
While highlighting the complementarities between both countries’ environmental initiatives, the Prime Minister hoped for enhanced bilateral cooperation and knowledge sharing in this area.
Both the leaders reaffirmed their resolve to further strengthen the strong, longstanding Pakistan-Saudi Arabia fraternal ties.
The Crown Prince invited the Prime Minister to visit to Saudi Arabia in the near future, which he accepted.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had a telephonic conversation with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud.
The Foreign Minister appreciated the steps taken by the Kingdom’s leadership in resolving differences among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
He particularly appreciated the recent initiative by the Saudi Government for promoting resolution of issues in Yemen through dialogue and diplomacy.
The Foreign Minister underscored Pakistan’s continued support for Saudi efforts aimed at promoting peace, security and prosperity in the region.
The Saudi Foreign Minister acknowledged Pakistan’s continued and steadfast support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
As part of his regular engagements, the Foreign Minister also held telephonic conversations with his counterparts from China, United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan.
During his conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Qureshi underscored the need to enhance cooperation in further augmenting Pakistan’s capacity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi reassured China’s continued support to Pakistan in its fight against the pandemic.
Both Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the resolve to further deepen Pakistan-China “All-Weather Strategic Co-operative Partnership”.
Talking to the Foreign Minister of the UAE, Foreign Minister Qureshi offered condolences on the sad demise of the Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the Finance Minister of the UAE.
Both leaders also agreed to strengthen cooperation in diverse fields; further facilitate the ease of travel between the two countries; and reinforce mutual support in multilateral organizations.
Talking to the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support to the Afghan peace process.
The Foreign Minister underscored the need to remain cognizant of the challenges and impediments on the way, which could overcome through patience, perseverance and persistence.
The Foreign Minister also emphasized the need for early finalization of the talks relating to the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).
On the economic front, the Foreign Minister, along with his counterpart of Hungary, jointly inaugurated the Hungary-Pakistan Trade and Economic Window (HPTEW) and the first Hungary-Pakistan Business Forum.
On the occasion, the Foreign Minister invited the Hungarian companies to take advantage of the investor-friendly climate in Pakistan.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister agreed that boosting linkages in all areas, particularly the economy, trade and enhanced people-to-people exchanges, would lead to fully realizing the economic potential between the two countries.
The 7th Pakistan-Japan High Level Economic Policy Dialogue was held in a virtual format.
Both sides exchanged views on the overall state of bilateral economic relations and reaffirmed their commitment to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation.
They also agreed to deliberate further on the possibility of concluding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA)/Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The 9th round of Pakistan-Egypt Annual Bilateral Consultations (ABC) was held in Cairo.
Both sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and agreed to work together on a number of proposals in the areas of education, culture, housing, transportation, communications and remote sensing, and cooperation in the multilateral organizations.
Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the Indian occupation forces have martyred six more Kashmiri youth during the past two weeks.
Pakistan strongly condemns the unabated extra-judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris in fake “encounters” and staged “cordon-and-search” operations in IIOJK.
These extrajudicial killings of Kashmiris are a clear violation of the humanitarian norms and fundamental precepts of international law.
Pakistan again reiterates its call for immediate and transparent judicial inquiry, under international scrutiny, into the extra-judicial killings of all innocent Kashmiris.
Pakistan also once again calls for peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions for durable peace and stability in the region.
I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.
Question: In view of the Indian illegal and unilateral actions since 5 August 2019 in IIOJK, would it be possible for Pakistan to move towards normalization of relations and resumption of trade with India?
Supplementary Question: What is the position of Foreign Office with regards to the resumption of trade with India? Was Foreign Office involved in Economic Coordination Committee’s (ECC) decision to import certain goods from India? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)
Supplementary Question: Was Foreign Office taken on board on the recent ECC’s decision to allow import of cotton, sugar and cotton yarn from India?
(Fida Hussain, Radio News Network)
Supplementary Question: The decision to partially resume imports from India was deferred by the Cabinet. Foreign Minister also stated that normalization of talks is not possible unless India rescinds its unilateral actions of 5 August 2019. How do you comment? (Jalil Akhtar, VOA)
Answer: As you are aware, the Federal Cabinet deferred the Economic Coordination Committee’s (ECC) decision to import sugar, cotton and cotton yarn from India.
As also stated by the Foreign Minister after yesterday’s meeting of the Cabinet, normalization of relations with India would not be possible without India revisiting its unilateral actions of 5 August 2019.
Question: In view of the recent developments and the exchange of letters between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, is there any progress on normalization of relations with India and on dialogue on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, the Daily Mail International)
Answer: Prime Minister Modi wrote a letter of felicitations to Prime Minister Imran Khan on 23rd March facilitating Pakistani people on the occasion of Pakistan Day.
In his response, Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked Prime Minister Modi for his message of felicitations.
In his letter to Prime Minister Modi, Prime Minister Imran Khan has again reiterated his earlier stance that people of Pakistan desire peaceful, cooperative relations with all neighbors, including India.
The Prime Minister has also conveyed that “durable peace and stability in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all outstanding issues, between India and Pakistan, in particular the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”
The Prime Minister has further mentioned that “creation of an enabling environment is imperative for a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue”.
It may be recalled that in his inaugural speech, Prime Minister Imran Khan had stated that “If India takes one step forward for peace, Pakistan will take two”.
We have consistently maintained that durable peace and stability in the region is contingent upon resolution of outstanding disputes and the core issue between India and Pakistan is indeed the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
There is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute which remains anchored in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Question: In yet another illegal move, the Modi government has directed to hoist Indian Flag (Taranga) on all government buildings and establishments in IIOJK. What is Pakistan’s stance on that? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: We believe that this step is in continuation of India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019 to perpetuate its illegal occupation of the territory.
These illegal and unilateral actions by the Indian Government have been rejected by the Kashmiris and by Pakistan. The international community, including the United Nations, international human rights and humanitarian organizations and the global media have been vocal in their condemnation of India on account of the grave human rights situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
Question: The U.S. State Department in its recent Human Rights report has highlighted the human rights violations in IIOJK. How do you comment on that? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: We welcome the findings of the recent Human Rights report on the situation in IIOJK.
The grave human rights situation in IIOJK has drawn condemnation from international community including the UN human rights machinery.
We believe that the international community must continue to closely monitor the situation in IIOJK and urge India to respect its obligations under the humanitarian and international laws.
Question: Can you confirm if the Russian Foreign Minister is coming to Pakistan? What would be the broad agenda of talks between the two sides? (Naveed Siddique, Dawn)
Answer: The Russian Foreign Minister is scheduled to visit Pakistan from 6-7 April, 2021. The broad agenda of discussions would include bilateral ties with particular focus on economic cooperation between the two countries. The two sides will also share their respective perspectives on regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Question: Former High Commissioner of Pakistan to India, Mr. Abdul Basit in his interview stated that former Prime Minister unilaterally pandered to Indian Prime Minister Modi’s priorities in bilateral ties, refused to mention the Kashmir dispute in their meeting in New Delhi and kept Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi out of the loop while conducting secret talks with Mr. Modi. How do you comment?
What are the views of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the findings of the Broadsheet Inquiry Commission regarding involvement of Mr. Abdul Basit, the former Deputy High Commissioner to London on making wrong payments, worth $15 million dollars to a fake company? (Abbas Jaffer, Daily District News)
Answer: Regarding the Broadsheet Commission’s findings, I would refer you to the relevant authorities for their comments on this issue.
As for the statement by the former High Commissioner Abdul Basit, we don’t comment on personal views of individuals.
Question: US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry is travelling to United Arab Emirates, India and Bangladesh to discuss the climate crisis and COP 26 but will not be travelling to Pakistan. Do you think it is a snub to Pakistan? Your comments, please.
During an interview on the sidelines of Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference, the Foreign Minister welcomed the fact that the Indian Foreign Minister refrained from pointing fingers on Pakistan in his speech. What is Foreign Office’s take on this? (Anas Mallick, The Correspondent)
Answer: The visit to these three countries, as noted by the State Department press release, is “for consultations on increasing climate action ahead of President Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate”.
The Ministry has already issued a statement on this issue on 27 March 2021. I would request you to refer to that statement.
As for the statement by the Foreign Minister, it is self explanatory. I do not have any further comments to offer.
Question: Are there any expected meetings of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister with their Indian counterparts in the near future? (Khawaja Hamza, Media Today)
Supplementary Question: How do you comment on the media reports about role of UAE in facilitating backchannel talks between Pakistan and India? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)
Supplementary Question: We have seen the joint statement of the DG MOs of the two countries; later we also saw the exchange of letters between the leadership of the two countries. Is it true that the new US Administration and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are trying to normalize ties between Pakistan and India? (Zaheer, Samaa TV)
Answer: – Pakistan has never shied away from talks and has always underscored the need for a ‘meaningful dialogue’ and peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues with India, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
We believe that durable peace, security and development in the region hinge on peaceful resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
Our desire for regional peace has been clearly spelled out by Prime Minister Imran Khan on a number of occasions stating that, “If India takes one step towards peace, Pakistan will take two.”
The recent statements by our leadership are a further reflection of Pakistan’s desire for peace and security in the region. However, onus is on India to create a conducive environment for “ a meaningful “ and “ result-oriented dialogue “.
As for the role of third countries, we believe that the international community has an important role to play in averting risks to peace and stability in the region and facilitating a just and lasting solution to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.
Question: What is the status of Saudi Investments in Pakistan, especially with regards to the oil refinery in Gwadar? (Hassan Riaz, JNN)
Answer: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy close cooperative and brotherly relations. There is a growing momentum in these relations between the two countries in all areas of cooperation including trade and investment.
For more details on specific Saudi investments, I would refer you to the Board of Investment.
Question: Last week, a dead body of a Pakistani prisoner had arrived from China. He was suffering from liver damage for the last three years and had completed his sentence in 2017.
A number of Pakistani prisoners who have already completed their sentences are still languishing in Chinese jails. It may be recalled that a treaty for transfer of sentenced persons between Pakistan and China was also signed in 2018, however it is yet to be implemented. How do you comment on this? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Khyber News)
Answer: Our Embassy in Beijing remains in close contact with the relevant Chinese authorities for the welfare of Pakistani nationals, including the Pakistani prisoners in China.
Welfare of Pakistani nationals is key priority of our diplomatic Missions around the world.
As for this specific case, we would get the details and revert back to you.
Question: The recent statements by the Pakistani leadership clearly indicate a shift of policy from geo-political to geo-economic paradigm.
Reportedly, other countries are also pushing Pakistan to engage with India. Do you think Pakistan needs to move away from peripheral issues to core issues? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)
Answer: While fully resolved to protect Pakistan’s national security interests, our emphasis is shifting from geo-politics to geo-economics. The concept of national security is also undergoing a review to with economic security being central.
As for engagement with India, Pakistan has never shied away from talks. However, we do believe that durable peace, security and development in the region hinge on peaceful resolution of all outstanding issue including the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
In his recent letter to Prime Minister Modi, the Prime Minister has again reiterated that “durable peace and stability in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all outstanding issues, between India and Pakistan, in particular the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”
However, as clearly outlined by the Prime Minister “creation of an enabling environment is imperative for a constructive and result-oriented dialogue.”