Home / Government Institutions / Keynote Speech by Syed Tariq Fatemi Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs, at Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (21st April, 2014) on Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives

Keynote Speech by Syed Tariq Fatemi Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs, at Karachi Council on Foreign Relations (21st April, 2014) on Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives

Islamabad, April 22, 2014 (PPI-OT): Honourable Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui,

Lt. Gen. Moin-ud-Din Haider, Chairman KCFR,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to be at this prestigious forum and share with you my thoughts on Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives.

It is gratifying to note that the KCFR has played an important role as a vibrant think tank based in Karachi, the city of the Quaid-i-Azam, and the country’s commercial and industrial hub.

At the outset, I wish to convey my deepest condolences on the passing away of my colleague and friend, the late Ambassador Saeed Ullah Khan Dehlavi, Vice Chairman KCFR. May Allah Almighty bless his soul!

Let me also say that my presence here today signifies the high importance the Government attaches to the views of the country’s intelligentsia and think tank community, in the formulation and execution of its domestic and foreign policies. I am therefore looking forward to having a candid and enriching discussion with you.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Diplomacy is traditionally defined as a country’s “first line of defence”. Looked at from this angle, foreign policy is a key element of a country’s national security policy. Pakistan’s foreign policy has, since independence, mostly remained focused on promoting the country’s security and strategic interests.

This included managing the adversarial relations with at least one of our major neighbours, through maintaining a semblance of balance of power in the subcontinent and fostering friendly relations with major powers and the Islamic world.

These objectives remain relevant and important, but as Iqbal (whose 76th death anniversary we are observing today), had said in one of his most profound verses, the only thing constant in history is change. Everything changes, evolves, and transforms over time.

The role of diplomacy has also evolved and transformed over time. Today, besides other roles, diplomacy is an integral tool of a country’s strategy of economic development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In a democracy, the electorate is the ultimate arbiter, whether it is foreign policy, or domestic policy. You are a witness to what Pakistan has been going through in recent years. You have also seen how the resilient people of this country have weathered many a storm.

The outcome of the elections held in May 2013 was a watershed in our history. Clearly, the challenges that the nation had been facing, and continues to face, shaped the preferences of the electorate.

The people of Pakistan endorsed the vision of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and gave him the mandate to steer the country to peace and prosperity, through the many challenges. The government’s domestic and foreign policies, in essence, flow from that sacred mandate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The vision that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is seeking to realize, since assuming office, has three distinct strands, which represent a conscious and well-considered departure from the past:

i) To build a “peaceful neighbourhood” so that Pakistan can focus on its economic development, in an environment of peace and stability;

ii) A rebalancing between geo-strategic and geo-economic priorities, with a sharper focus on economic diplomacy; and

iii) Recognition of the vital contribution of the Pakistani diaspora to national development efforts and a commitment to realize their full potential and ensure their welfare.

Ladies and gentlemen,

But we do recognize that given the enormous challenges confronting the nation, achieving these goals will require enormous efforts.

Consequently, a great deal of our effort in our interaction with the rest of the world is devoted to addressing these challenges, that include:

a) the revival of the economy;

b) the energy shortages; and

c) the phenomena of extremism and terrorism.

Promoting Pakistan’s economic interests is our immediate priority. It is also on top of our medium and long term goals.

The focus of our economic diplomacy is on the expansion of trade and investment and strengthening cooperation with the rest of the world in the areas of energy, technology, education, agriculture and human resource development.

Our aim is to transform Pakistan’s relations with other countries and regions, into mutually beneficial partnerships, within the next five to ten years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you are aware, Pakistan is located at the crossroads of vast regions, with powerful economic complementarities. On our North and West, we have the energy rich Central Asia, Iran and GCC countries. On our North East, are the energy deficient giants China and India. Pakistan’s coastal belt provides China and the entire Silk Road Economic Belt with the shortest access to the warm waters of Arabian Sea.

Pakistan is en route the three-pronged economic corridor between China, Central Asia and the Middle East. The government’s effort is to realize the full potential of Pakistan’s strategic location, in establishing mutually beneficial linkages at the bilateral and regional levels, and serving as an intra-regional and inter-regional commercial and economic hub.

The first major step in this direction has been taken through the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. This mega project will serve as a trail blazer in ushering in a new era of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the entire region.

This ambitious project envisages building an advanced infrastructure, energy and communication network, linking western regions of China with Pakistan. This would revolutionize trade and investment in the adjoining regions of the two countries, and integrate the whole region in the years to come.

I am happy to inform you that over the course of the last ten months, the two countries have achieved a broad consensus on planning various infrastructure and energy projects, under the Economic Corridor.

We are also working on equally ambitious agendas of mutually beneficial economic cooperation with other countries and in particular with Turkey and the GCC countries. These include mega bilateral projects in the energy and infrastructure sectors.

Key energy and communication projects linking the regional countries include the TAPI gas pipeline project, the CASA-1000 electricity project and the ECO container train project (also known as Gul train), linking Islamabad with Istanbul and the IP project, that can hopefully take off as soon as conducive conditions arise.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A major thrust of our foreign policy priorities is on transforming our relations with our closest neighbours, Afghanistan and India. Both countries are going through electoral processes. We are looking forward to engaging the new leaderships of the two countries, to pursue our common agenda of peace and development.

We are distinctly aware of the fact that peace and stability in Afghanistan are crucial, not only in terms of their impact on our internal security, but also for realizing our agenda for cooperation at the bilateral and regional levels.

As you are aware, Pakistan shares multiple ethnic, religious and cultural commonalities with Afghanistan. More significantly, the two countries share a common strategic space in the region. The security and future prosperity of the two countries are inter-linked.

The impact of the crises in Afghanistan and their spill-over into Pakistan, has been huge. The price paid by Pakistan in handling the fall-out of the Afghan situation is incalculable, in terms of both treasure and blood.

Afghanistan, as you know, has entered a defining moment in its history with the Presidential and Provincial Council elections held on 5 April, week, while the process of drawdown of foreign forces is in progress.

The outcome of the transition in Afghanistan would have far-reaching implications not only for Afghanistan itself, but for its neighbours and the entire region.

We believe that a successful transition in Afghanistan crucially depends on a credible Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process of reconciliation; capacity building of Afghan National Security Forces and transformation of the war economy into a normal peaceful economy.

Pakistan has extended full, unconditional and sincere cooperation to Afghanistan, in holding free and fair elections, and in facilitating a credible process of reconciliation. These include the release of Taliban detainees at the request of the Afghan government and the High Peace Council. We also support the HPC “roadmap” to engage the Taliban. We will continue to work with the Afghan government and HPC to advance the cause of reconciliation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan. It is our hope that other regional players will refrain from meddling in Afghan affairs and there is no repeat of what had happened in the 1990s. There should be no scope for anyone using Afghan territory, to de-stabilize its neighbours.

The international community owes it to the Afghan people to help them, in the reconstruction of the war-torn country and to facilitate economic development, including through a regional arrangement. It is vital to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a breeding ground of terrorism and extremism, once again.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is committed to transforming our relations with all our neighbours, including India. You would recall that the first foreign envoy that the Prime Minister received after the victory in the May 2013 elections and before assuming charge, was the Special Envoy of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.

The two Prime Ministers have since interacted several times. Considerable progress has been made in bringing relations between the two countries back on track, despite challenges like the eruption of hostilities along the Line of Control (LoC).

In a major departure from past pattern, the two countries are now working together to fast track cooperation in the economic and commercial fields, beginning with working out mutually beneficial mechanisms, to allow Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) to both sides. As a neighbouring democracy, we share the enthusiasm of the people of India and wish them well, as they go through the ongoing elections.

In an effort to transform this key relationship into a cooperative partnership, we are looking forward to engaging the Indian leadership after the elections, for a meaningful dialogue, to address effectively all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, and realize the potential of mutually beneficial cooperation. This will require a forward looking approach from both sides. We are willing to walk the extra mile.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A lot has been written and commented about our relations with the United States. A common criticism is that these relations have been issue-based and transactional in nature, with Pakistan becoming the most aligned ally whenever US interests dictate, and multi-layered sanctions are imposed on Pakistan, every time the US interests diverge. A recurring theme in recent years, is that the two sides have not been able to bridge the proverbial trust deficit between them.

While it is true that Pakistan-US relations have moved up and down over the years, occasionally hitting rough patches along the way, it is also true that the two sides have always managed to steer these relations safely through those difficult episodes. Both sides have gained whenever they have come together and lost whenever they have drifted apart.

Ironically enough, the last phase of engagement, in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, which began with renewed commitment to a long term strategic partnership, saw the relations hitting rock bottom, a decade down the way, following the Abbottabad and Salala incidents.

That difficult phase has now been overcome. The visit of the Prime Minister to Washington late last year, was the turning point in shaping the contours of our current relations with the United States. The broad parameters of this new phase are the adherence to the principles of mutual interest and mutual respect. The Prime Minister has articulated clearly his vision of “trade, not aid”.

This is, of course, as much relevant in the case of the US, as it is in the context of any other country. The two democracies share common values. They share vital interests bilaterally, as well as at the regional and international levels.

The resumption of Strategic Dialogue process reflects the strong desire of the two sides to giving an impetus to cooperation in the key areas of trade, investment, energy, agriculture, education and science and technology.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan and the EU enjoy friendly and cooperative relations. The traditional ties between the two sides have been reinforced with the historic democratic transition in Pakistan, after the May 2013 elections.

Pakistan and NATO forces cooperated closely in Afghanistan. Pakistan and the EU are working closely to help bring about an orderly transition in Afghanistan.

The EU is our largest trading partner. It is also a major investor in Pakistan. We appreciate deeply the recent decision by the EU to grant GSP+ status to Pakistan. This major trade concession is a tribute to the democratic transition and reflects the strong desire from both sides, to engage in an enduring partnership for common benefit.

Our relations with the Russian Federation are growing steadily. The two countries are cooperating closely at the UN and SCO. We share common interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Pakistan appreciates Russia’s cooperation in building energy corridors, economic linkages and road and rail network linking Central Asia with Pakistan. We are keen to realize the huge potential of mutually beneficial cooperation in the commercial and economic fields, both bilaterally, as well as at the regional level.

With the shift of focus to economic diplomacy, Pakistan attaches great importance to reinforcing its existing economic and commercial ties with Japan, ASEAN, and the entire ANZUS region. Similarly, we are intensifying our efforts to strengthen our relations with our friends and partners in Africa and Latin America.

Pakistan is proud of its long standing solidarity with the developing countries, in these vibrant regions. Our aim is to convert the existing goodwill, into mutually beneficial partnerships, in the commercial and economic fields.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It was anticipated that the end of the Cold War would usher in a new era of peace and harmony. Instead, what we have been witnessing in the past two decades, is a series of crises, from economic melt-down to the phenomena of terrorism and extremism. While old disputes remain unresolved, new and more complex regional and international conflicts are emerging, in different parts of the world.

Pakistan is following closely the historic transformations underway in and around our region and at the global levels. Major global developments include the shifting of the economic centre of gravity to Asia, which while accounting for 63% of the world’s population, is also home to 12 out of the 30 biggest economies, by Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) including the second, third and fourth largest.

Collectively, Asia accounts for 43% of global GDP on a PPP basis. The peaceful rise of China is not only of global significance, but also confirms that the new paradigm of great power relations is based on the pre-eminence of economic interests. It is also to be seen how developments in Ukraine impact on what used to be called East-West relations and the global environment, as a whole.

The ongoing process of rapprochement between Iran and the Western powers will have a major role in shaping the geopolitical and geo-economic landscape, in an area of pivotal importance for Pakistan. It is our hope that the ongoing political developments in North Africa and the Middle East, bring peace and harmony to this volatile region. A source of major concern for us is that these developments, may aggravate the sectarian rifts among Muslim Ummah.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The crux of the lessons that we have learnt from our history, is that we must do everything within our means, to realize the vast potential of our geographical location as an asset, rather than allowing it to remain a liability. This requires peace within our borders, and peace in our neighbourhood.

This is what the father of the Nation emphasized in his famous remarks:

“Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world. We do not cherish aggressive designs against any country, or nation. We believe in the principle of honesty and fair play in national and international dealings and are prepared to make our utmost contribution to the promotion of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world.”

I thank you.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tell: 051-9205494
Fax: 051-9204202
Cell: 0336-5644459

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