Assalam-o-Alaikum and a Very Good Afternoon
On the conclusion of the Parliament’s term, it is my privilege to address you as Foreign Minister on the overall shape and direction of PMLN Government’s foreign policy through these five years and to share with you some insights and candid opinions.
Although I have had the privilege of serving as Foreign Minister for a brief period towards the end of the Government’s tenure my previous portfolios in Commerce and Defence and discharge of parliamentary business of foreign affairs for four years gave me ample opportunity to remain intimately linked with the issues and challenges confronting Pakistan’s foreign relations.
Foreign policy is never made in isolation. It is a country’s dynamic response to the ever-changing international environment.
It takes into account a country’s ideological moorings, security environment, strategic and economic interests, and historical legacies.
In a democratic polity, foreign policy has to respond to, negotiate with, and address a multiplicity of national and international stakeholders, interests, and actors, while remaining answerable to Parliament and the citizenry it represents.
As Amartya Sen wrote a country does not have to be deemed fit for democracy rather it has to become fit through democracy.
These past five years we have been faced with numerous challenges emanating from a difficult strategic environment unprecedented flux in our geopolitical context and our fight against terrorism and extremism.
We have navigated successfully through turbulent waters and have achieved measurable success through a “regional recalibration” of our foreign policy.
First under former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and later under Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi we endeavoured to forge closer and better relations with countries in our neighbourhood and the world at large.
Our aim was to promote economic connectivity, strengthen partnerships, expand Pakistan’s diplomatic space, and raise our international profile; while simultaneously serving our diaspora the world over, and safeguarding its interests as well.
I wish to highlight seven notable landmarks:
Further strengthening and deepening of our relations with the People’s Republic of China.
China has always been the anchor of our foreign policy. Sino-Pak friendship has no parallels in the annals of history.
We have managed to elevate it to an even higher plane.
Our interaction at the highest political level has remained significant. In these five years, Pakistan has welcomed President Xi Jinping, in his historic visit of April 2015, Premier Li Keqiang, and numerous high level dignitaries from China.
From Pakistan ten head of state and head-of-government level visits have transpired.
The launch and quick progress on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, has been a landmark achievement.
It is a measure of success of our foreign policy that we are now poised to translate our geostrategic location into a geo economic asset.
CPEC is forging ahead with full steam.
It has attracted investments of $ 46.6 billion and has put Pakistan squarely at the centre of a blueprint for a more hopeful, prosperous, and connected future for the region and the world.
A concerted outreach to Central Asia, resulting in a marked and visible upswing in our relations with this important region.
Pakistan successfully hosted after a gap of nearly twenty-two years, the Thirteenth ECO Summit in Islamabad in March 2017 and assumed Chairmanship of ECO for the ensuing year.
The Summit brought together regional leaders, and underscored our centrality in pushing forward the connectivity agenda for the region.
Pakistan’s formal accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member marks our entry into the largest club of nations in terms of size of populations, geographic expanse, and quantum of resources.
This was a breakthrough we managed to achieve 12 years after assuming observer status in the SCO, and some 18 years after its founding.
For the first time in history, we created and reinforced a historically unprecedented opening in relations with the Russian Federation.
In recent times, there have been regular visits between our two sides.
We have developed mutual understandings and coordinated closely on issues of mutual concern.
This relationship today has the potential to blossom into a multifaceted partnership.
Continued engagement and strengthening of our relations with our traditional partners and allies in the Middle East.
Rising tensions and insecurities in that region necessitated undertaking delicate balancing measures, while remaining true to our strong conviction the solidarity of the Ummah, and our abiding commitment to the security of our partners.
It was a difficult test, but Alhamdolillah, we were able to succeed as a responsible power.
Today, our relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran, among others, remain robust and continue to evolve. Our partnerships with the Gulf States remain vibrant and mutually rewarding.
Our continued engagement with our partners in Europe, Americas and the Far East.
It is a measure of success of our economic diplomacy, that Pakistan was able to attain the GSP Plus Status in 2014 for ten years, the widest and longest trade facilitation in Pakistan’s history.
We have sustained it successfully ever since, delivering a 38% increase in Pakistan’s exports to the European Union.
Pakistan continued to maintain a high profile and lead role in international forums including the UN.
We remained a lead contributor to UN’s global peacekeeping and peace building missions.
It is a measure of our recognition and acknowledgment of our efforts that Pakistan has recently won elections to three important UN bodies: The Human Rights Council, ECOSOC’s Committee on NGOs, and to the UNICEF Executive Board.
Out of 30 elections we contested between 2013 – 2018, we won 27.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The martyrdom of Burhan Wani reignited the Kashmiri struggle for self determination.
Pakistan stood, and will continue to stand, firmly and resolutely by the side of its Kashmiri brethren in their just quest for freedom.
At every forum, on every platform, particularly at the UN General Assembly by Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Abbasi, we highlighted the Indian atrocities and forcefully put forward the case of the Kashmiris.
Regrettably, India has sought to externalize its failings in the occupied territory by raising the false bogey of terrorism, unleashing wave after wave of state sponsored repression in occupied territories, seeking to disrupt the Indus Water Treaty, and through escalating violations of ceasefire at the Line of Control and Working Boundary.
On the regional plane, SAARC Summit was impeded from going ahead.
The arrest and confession of Commander Khulbhushan Yadav has beyond an iota of doubt proven India’s reprehensible designs to subvert Pakistan.
Our eastern neighbor will have to abandon negative approaches, and concede to the logic of unconditional dialogue. I refer to the recent statement by my Indian counterpart a few days ago.
We believe that a stable Afghanistan is essential for a stable neighborhood.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are linked together by bonds of language, culture, and history that are as abiding as they are deep.
For seventeen years, Afghanistan and together with it Pakistan, have suffered at the hands of overtly militaristic approaches to addressing the problem of terrorism and extremism.
There is now international consensus that there is no roadmap to peace except through reconciliation.
We have lent, and will continue to lend all possible support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation.
In this regard, we welcome the Afghan Government’s unconditional offer of talks to the Taliban.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), that has now been activated, will strengthen mutual trust and deepen interaction in all areas of common concern.
Pakistan wishes to also see all Afghan refugees, to whom we have afforded sanctuary and security for over forty years now, return expeditiously with dignity and honour to their country.
We wish to see Afghanistan take reciprocal and complementary measures to secure and manage the border; rendering it impermeable to undesirable elements.
As Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
These and other issues will be on the agenda of the APAPPS working groups as they begin their work.
Besides hosting large number of Afghan refugees, we continue to facilitate Afghanistan in other ways.
Firstly, in the domain of capacity building, we have trained 50,000 Afghans in different fields of education.
An additional 6,000 scholarships are in the pipeline.
Many alumni of our universities and educational institutes are now working in Afghanistan’s public and private sectors, fulfilling their own dreams and the needs of their country.
No other country comes close to matching this number.
Secondly, the Prime Minister announced recently a gift of 40,000 tons of wheat for Afghan people.
Thirdly, we have decided to waive off additional regulatory duties on Afghan exports to Pakistan.
Under the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Practical Dialogue, Pakistan and China have devised an elaborate program for technical assistance and capacity building of Afghans in diverse fields.
Friends and Colleagues,
Pakistan’s relations with the United States go back to the very founding of our nation.
Together our two countries have achieved great things in the past.
Beyond Afghanistan and the issue of terrorism, we have a multi-vectored partnership that spans the areas of education, health, trade, science and technology, commerce, defence and security. We believe both countries stand to gain by cooperation rather than castigation.
The new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia has created an unnecessary divergence, which is based largely on perceptions rather than facts.
Pakistan maintains that the ultimate goal of a safe and secure Afghanistan should take priority over any differences regarding ways and manner to achieve the end-state.
Our relationship with the US, like all other states, is dynamic and evolving. We remain actively engaged with the US Administration and other organs of the state to reconcile our differences and keep this important relationship free of misgivings.
Perhaps epitomizing the new era of high activity, and intense global engagement since 2013, the Foreign Office was given a face lift, and a new state of the art block as well as a Facilitation Hall were added to the existing infrastructure.
Pakistan is fortunate to have a dedicated cadre of highly professional and skilled diplomats, who have carried the flag and discharged their responsibilities in the most daunting circumstances.
Going forward, they will be called upon to play a bigger role, as Pakistan will continue to be required to navigate its foreign policy in an increasingly uncertain and unsettled world.
Allah has blessed Pakistan with a myriad of gifts and assets, not the least are the myriad talents and deep resilience of our 207 million citizens.
Despite being confronted with a multiplicity of challenges, our foreign policy has shown dynamism and resilience, characteristic of our nature and genome. Pakistan’s future direction is only one: upward and forward.
During the PMLN Government, Pakistan emerged from the dark period of terrorism, crippling energy shortages, and a regressing economy into a peaceful, economically vibrant, energy-sufficient and globally-connected nation.
We are destined to be a formidable Asian power Inshallah.
Representing our great nation has been an immense honour and a tremendous responsibility.
To my successor I leave the challenge of crafting a foreign policy for a democratic Pakistan a foreign policy that can be unshackled from security a foreign policy that looks outwards with an open mind to engage the world economically; a foreign policy that leverages the strength and resilience of the Pakistani people to bring glory and enhanced dignity to Pakistani flag.
As for myself and the government and Parliament—that the people of Pakistan privileged me to be a part of—and that complete their term at midnight, I paraphrase some wise words:
The part assigned to me was to raise the flag of Pakistan, which I did, and now that the flag is up, it is for the people to keep it up.
May the green & white flag soar high always.