Islamabad: Opening Statement
Today is the 26th anniversary of the SAARC Charter and on this occasion, we would like to start by reading out the Prime Minister’s message:
“The Government and people of Pakistan join fellow SAARC member states in commemorating the 26th Anniversary of the signing of the SAARC Charter. On this Day, we renew our commitment to the realization of the noble vision of regional cooperation in South Asia.
During the last 26 years, SAARC has emerged as an important forum for regional cooperation. SAARC has made notable progress in a number of areas including trade, finance, poverty alleviation, human resource development, women empowerment, children welfare, rural development, anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics and environment.
Pakistan shares the vision of a robust multidimensional cooperation in South Asia. It is important to sustain the momentum in regional cooperation imparted by the 17th SAARC Summit which called for building bridges and developing meaningful partnerships for economic growth and social uplift of the peoples of the region.
Pakistan will continue to play a proactive role in realizing the promise and potential of SAARC.”
Let me also announce, that an Envoys’ Conference is being held in Islamabad on 12-13 December. Our Ambassadors and High Commissioners in selected capitals will be participating in the conference. The purpose of the Conference will be to deliberate on different aspects of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic of Serbia will be visiting Pakistan next week to hold bilateral consultations with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. Issues of mutual interest including ways and means to deepen bilateral relations will come up for discussion.
We are also glad to announce that Pakistan has been elected the External Auditor of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) for a third consecutive two-year term. The 14th Session of UNIDO’s General Conference held in Vienna elected the Auditor General of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Akhtar Buland Rana, as External Auditor. His election by consensus is reflective of the international community’s strong support for Pakistan.
Questions and Answers
Q 1: My question relates to Pakistan-US relations. In the aftermath of the Bonn Conference, would you like to educate us on what is the status of Pak-US relations? Are we still talking to each other or are the bilateral ties finished for now?
A 1: Not at all. Obviously, we have our bilateral ties with the US and following the 26 November event, we are in the process of reviewing contours of our relations. That process is underway. It would not really be advisable for me to dilate upon the subject at this point in time. Nor is it for me to define a timeline for this process.
Q 2: People say that Pakistan boycotted the Bonn Conference but we got nothing. Had Pakistan participated in it, Pakistan could have at least registered its reactions and protest. What are your comments?
A 2: Pakistan boycotted the Bonn Conference in the larger interest of Pakistan. But not attending the Bonn Conference should not be taken as our total disassociation from our aspiration to promote peace and security in Afghanistan. Peace and stability in Afghanistan is indeed in our own larger national interest and Pakistan will continue doing whatever it can to facilitate the process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
We are not looking at the Bonn Conference in terms of what Pakistan gained or lost. We would rather look at it in the perspective that the decision was taken in sync with our larger national interest and there was no point in attending the conference in the background of the 26th November event.
Q 3: The US Senators keep repeating demands for discontinuing military aid to Pakistan. Could you please tell us the extent of Pakistan’s dependence on the US military assistance? Secondly, what reimbursement has Pakistan received from the United States in return for the logistic support that we have been extending to the US?
A 3: I would not know the exact figure but in the Coalition Support Fund, US has been reimbursing us some money. But I am afraid I would not know the exact figure. As for your earlier question, we are hearing these voices. It is for US senators to say whatever they want to say, we would take decisions in accordance with our own interests.
At this stage, you would appreciate, it would make no sense to engage in a discussion on what is to come in terms of our future engagement with NATO/ISAF and the United States. So, my suggestion would be to wait for our review process to complete; and only then can we really talk about these issues in a more substantial and substantive matter.
Q 4: My question relates to President Karzai’s statements concerning terrorist attack on Ashura procession in Afghanistan. What is the status of Pak-Afghanistan bilateral relations at present? There have been similar accusations against Pakistan in the past. How would you comment?
A 4: We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprehensible crime which resulted in the loss of 60 precious lives. We express our deepest condolences to the brotherly people of Afghanistan.
Extremism and terrorism, as you all know, one is a common scourge and a global phenomenon. All of us should join hands in order to defeat these menaces. We have seen President Karzai’s reported remarks regarding a banned organization. We would encourage Kabul to share evidence, if any, with us through official channels. The people of Pakistan are committed to fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Q 5: When we talk about reviewing ties with the United States, do we mean cutting down the ties or streamlining the cooperation?
A 5: We are streamlining the cooperation.
Q 6: There have been reports that Mr. Ghulam Nabi Fai has pleaded guilty to charges of accepting funds from the ISI. What are your comments on this development?
A 6: Yes, we have seen the reports. We are still awaiting details of his reported confession from our Embassy in Washington DC. At this stage, I therefore, would refrain from commenting on this development.
Q 7: The NATO Secretary General has announced some political framework on Pakistan. Have you received it? If yes, what is this political framework?
A 7: A proposal to conclude a Pakistan-NATO Political Declaration what was being discussed at some stage. I think the proposal was first discussed during the NATO Secretary General’s visit to Pakistan, perhaps last year, if I remember correctly. But no concrete progress has been made so far.
Q 8: At a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, there was a speech by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She said that gay rights are human rights and that in future the US aid would be linked with this. The UN reports that representative of about 47 missions were present there and nobody walked out. And there was standing ovation for Ms. Clinton. Has Pakistan’s policy changed on this issue? Do you think that gay rights are human rights?
A 8: This issue has been coming up at different international fora. Recently, I remember at the Perth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, a delegation did propose some language on gay rights for the Perth communiqué, and I remember several countries including Pakistan did not support the language for inclusion in the Perth document. We are of the view that these are sensitive issues and sometimes they directly clash with peoples’ and counties’ cultural and religious ethos.
I narrate what happened in the Commonwealth meeting so as it gives you an idea of what would be Pakistan’s likely position on this issue. We do not know if our Ambassador was a part of it, but in any case there is no point in leaving the room even if you have disagreements on certain issues.
You should present your viewpoint. Pakistan has always tried to develop consensus on controversial issues. We would like to discuss and place our position on the table rather than boycotting discussions.
Q 9: I would like to ask you about negotiation over the issue of Osama bin Laden’s family to be handed over to Saudi Arabia. Has Saudi Arabia contacted Pakistan formally?
A 9: Not to my knowledge.
Q 10: At present President Asif Ali Zardari is in UAE. Is the Foreign Office on board this issue? What is the latest position? Secondly, we keep saying that we are reviewing our foreign policy. Does that mean that our foreign policy has failed at this important juncture?
A 10: As regards your first question, I have nothing to add to whatever details have been provided to you officially. Regarding your second question, we are not saying that we are reviewing our foreign policy as a whole.
We are reviewing the terms of engagement with NATO and US. As far as Pakistan’s foreign policy is concerned, we have always tried to gear it towards protecting our national sovereignty, territorial integrity and aligned it strictly with Pakistan’s requirements for peace and development.
This is exactly what we have been doing all along and in this endeavour, we have tried to uphold the principles enshrined in the UN charter. Pakistan has always pursued scrupulous foreign policy and we would continue doing that. There are times when you review certain aspects of your foreign policy and that we are presently doing. The Envoys Conference which is being held next week will also deliberate on these issues.
Q 11: My question is about the Australian government’s decision to export uranium to India. What is Pakistan’s take on this? Secondly, what is the latest on the grant of MFN status to India?
A 11: Regarding your question pertaining to Australia, we did take up this matter with the Australian government. As you all know, Pakistan has always tried for a non-discriminatory regime for cooperation in civilian nuclear technology. You also know that Pakistan is an energy deficient country and our energy needs have been multiplying. We, therefore, strongly believe that these non-discriminatory approaches do not help and Pakistan will look forward to benefitting from nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
We hope that facilities as available to India will also be made available to Pakistan. As for the MFN status, you know that October next year is the timeframe which has been given. The Ministry of Commerce, I am sure, is working at it and a decision will be taken, I would say again, in sync with our interest and WTO rules . The decision in principle was taken by the Cabinet. Details as to how MFN status will be granted, the nitty-gritty are being worked out.
Q 12: My question is that since the year of Pakistan-China Friendship is coming to an end, would you like to make some comment on the achievements in Pak-China relations during this year? Secondly, would you like to speak about Pakistan-Russia relations?
A 12: As for Pakistan-Russia relations, I can tell you, that we are working on a possible high level visit early next year to Russia before the Presidential elections in the Russian Federation. Pakistan-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission is likely to meet early next year. This will be the second meeting of the Commission.
Then there are several proposals which are being discussed in various areas between Pakistan and Russia; for instance in the context of up-gradation of the Pakistan Steal Mill; then Russia has also evinced interest in TAPI and CASA-1000 and work is also in progress on these two projects on how to engage Russia. So, Pakistan-Russia relations are on an upward trajectory.
We are happy about this relationship. As for Pakistan-China relations, it is a unique relationship. It goes without saying that our two countries are committed at all levels to further strengthen this time-tested relationship. We celebrated the establishment of our diplomatic relations during the year 2011. The activities we had during this year were both extensive and intensive.
Particularly important was the way in which we managed to define additional areas for enhancing people to people contacts. Pakistan and China Friendship as it is often said is higher than Himalayas and deeper than the oceans. I think that is the most appropriate depiction of the nature and scope of our relationship.
Q 13: This is regarding our relations with Afghanistan. There is the military side and the political side. Do you think we have completely failed politically in maintaining good relations with Afghanistan? Each time some things happen in Afghanistan, they have the comfort of pointing towards Pakistan, even before the funerals have been held.
This is surely disappointing and a failure of Pakistan’s Afghan policy that we have not been able to build trust with the Karzai government; and that at times, even outlandish accusations are made against us?
A 13: I would not subscribe to your viewpoint. In Pakistan we cherish the progress that we have made especially in the last three years in building up very good relations with Afghanistan at all levels. Both the countries have worked at different levels to strengthen this relationship. That is why we would like to take this relationship further. As our Foreign Minister said while speaking to the German Ambassador yesterday that we would like to have a relationship that is free from recrimination and blame game.
During the last two years we have tried very hard to build a relationship with Afghanistan that is based on mutual trust and mutual interest. We strongly believe that our two countries’ destinies are intertwined; and this is the premise on which we work. And we have seen results. Our trade is doing well. There are over 6000 Afghan students studying here. Around 40-50,000 Pakistanis are working in Afghanistan, taking active part in Afghanistan’s development. So, the relations are moving forward.
To say that there has been no achievement is to understate the essence of our relationship. But you are absolutely right when you say that publicly accusing Pakistan without basis does create problems. It is high time to get out of this blame game syndrome and move forward in a spirit of brotherly cooperation.
Q 14: What are we looking at when we talk about reviewing our relationship with NATO and the US? What are our demands from the US in order to reset this relationship?
A 14: You will find out when the time comes.
For more information, contact:
Syed Haider Ali Jafri
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 921 0335 and 9056604