Islamabad: Opening Statement
As part of the resumed dialogue process between Pakistan and India, the fifth round of expert level talks on Conventional Confidence Building Measures, and the sixth round of expert level talks on Nuclear Confidence Building Measures, will be held in Islamabad on 26 and 27 December 2011, respectively.
Mr. Munawar Saeed Bhatti, Additional Secretary (UN and EC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, would head the Pakistan delegation for both Expert Groups. On the Indian side, Mr. D. Bala Verma, Director General (Disarmament and International Security Affairs) Ministry of External Affairs, would lead the Nuclear CBMs Group, while Mr. Yashwant K. Sinha, Joint Secretary (PAI), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), would head the Conventional CBMs Group.
The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries met in Islamabad in June 2011 where, both sides, inter alia, agreed to re-convene the two Expert Groups. These Expert Groups last met in New Delhi in October 2007.
Q and A Session
Q: US Defence authorities have claimed that the NATO supply route would be re-opened very soon. What is your comment on that? Vice President Joe Biden has stated that the Taliban are not enemies of the United States. How do you see this development?
A: As for your first question the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, as you all know is seized of the matter, I will therefore not comment. As regards your second question, Vice President Joe Biden has made an important statement and at this stage I have no comment to offer.
Q: Some media reports show that Turkey has also raised objections to stopping of the NATO supply route. Turkey also has military presence in Afghanistan. Any comment?
A: I have not seen comments by Turkey. As I said earlier, the matter is being reviewed by the parliament and parliament will take decisions on these issues.
Q: President Karzai asked Pakistan to directly talk to Afghanistan and not to look at the issue through the United States or India or any other country. He has also stated that Pakistan and Afghanistan should work together and they should not engage others in their bilateral issues. What are your comments?
A: As you know, we attach great importance to our relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan has been trying very hard to further deepen these relations to our mutual advantage and on the basis of mutual respect. We are confident that our relations with Afghanistan would continue to strengthen and develop, independent of our relations with other countries. There are strong bonds between the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan and our relations are incomparable and unbreakable.
Q: Afghan parliamentarians have visited Pakistan recently and they also have expressed their concern over stopping of NATO supply route. Can this visit be seen in the context of NATO strikes?
A: Not really, I don’t think so. We have ongoing parliamentary contacts with Afghanistan.
Q: The United States is expected to release finding of its investigation, tomorrow, on last month’s NATO attack. What do you expect out of this report? Can one look at this as best case scenario vs. worst case scenario. Do we have any assessment going on in Foreign Ministry? Other question is about supply line. You said that it is for the parliament to debate discuss and decide, but is there a timeframe we are looking at. Surely, it can’t be open ended. It can be weeks or months before we reach at some kind of conclusions?
A: As for your first question, again I would not like to speculate. Let the investigation report come out. We will look at findings very carefully and then articulate our response. As for your latter question, I will not pre-empt the parliament and it is their prerogative how they would like to look at the entire process. It is for them to decide about the timeline. It is not for this Ministry to pre-empt here or comment on how they (parliament) conduct their business. Obviously, one thing is very clear that this exercise is not to wreck our relations with any particular country. This exercise is to streamline our cooperation on such a sensitive issue. And as our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have said all along that the new terms of engagement, as and when our parliament decides, have to be on the basis of mutual respect and mutual trust.
Q: The Prime Minister clearly stated yesterday that drone attacks would have to be ended. Is that a pre-requisite to further progress?
A: I would again say that all these matters are being considered by the Parliamentary Committee. I would not like to offer comment on any particular issue. It is not for me to pre-empt the work of the Parliamentary Committee.
Q: Head of visiting 22-member Afghan delegation said yesterday that they have serious reservation about contacts between the Taliban and USA in Qatar. In the past, the US has been engaging with the Taliban without informing its allies. What kind of reconciliation efforts are going on and what kind of talks are being carried out with the Taliban?
A: I can see their point but as far as Pakistan is concerned we are convinced that peace and stability in Afghanistan will remain elusive without genuine reconciliation and, then, it is for Afghans themselves to steer this process and lead it to its logical conclusion. To this end, the people of Afghanistan can always count on Pakistan’s support.
Q: Has US taken Pakistan into confidence regarding these talks with the Taliban because Pakistan is an important part of this process?
A: Pakistan strongly believes that without genuine reconciliation process, we cannot have peace and stability in Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan can always count on Pakistan to achieve this goal and, our shared objectives.
Q: How do you define the paradigm of genuine reconciliation and when Americans are engaged with the Taliban? Do you think it is not the right direction to genuine reconciliation?
A: It is for you to interpret the meaning of genuine reconciliation. We all know how important Afghanistan is for Pakistan. It has been our effort to help Afghanistan to achieve peace and stability. We will continue to do whatever we can do in this context.
Q: You have commented on the statement of Vice President Biden. Is Pakistan playing the role of a conduit between Washington and the Taliban?
A: As I said earlier, the people of Afghanistan can always count on Pakistan’s support to attain peace and stability in Afghanistan. There is nothing I can add to this.
Q: The US Ambassador is in the Ministry at this moment. Would you like to share with us what he is up to or what we are going to take up with him?
A: Let this meeting (Ambassador’s meeting with the Foreign Minister) conclude, then, I may be in a position to say something.
Q: The Parliamentary Committee on National Security has asked for certain documents/proposals, regarding the reviewing of foreign policy, from this ministry. Would you like to comment on this?
A: The recommendations formulated by the Envoys Conference have been presented to the Parliamentary Committee by the Foreign Minister herself. The Committee, I understand, had asked for copies of the certain agreements. I think the Ministry of Defence has already provided or is in the process of providing these documents to the Parliamentary Committee.
Q: You may not like what Vice President Biden has said about the Taliban, but what is your policy regarding the Taliban? Do you take their activity as legitimate resistance against foreign occupants? My other question is regarding the statement of the Foreign Minister about the assassination of former President of Afghanistan, Mr. Rabbani. What kind of evidence Pakistan does have?
A: On your second question I can tell you that the Foreign Minister was making the point to underscore that we should avoid knee-jerk reactions. The process of investigation into the reprehensible murder of the President Rabbani is underway. We should wait for the findings of the investigation and its conclusions. About your other question, I would say that it is for Afghan people to decide about the reconciliation process. We have been saying this all along. It is rather insignificant as to what other countries think. Afghanistan is a sovereign country. They should lead this process. Our interest is that peace and stability should return to Afghanistan sooner rather than later.
Q: What is our policy regarding the Afghan refugees. Do you want them go back?
A: Definitely. We want them to go back but we want this to happen in a dignified manner because they have been our guests for over three decades. We would very much like them to go back to their home country. There is no doubt about that and we are trying to work out arrangement with the UNHCR. We hope that they return to their homeland quickly but with dignity and honour.
Q: Ambassador Haqqani stated in the Supreme Court that he issued all visas after fulfilling proper procedural requirements, stipulated by the Foreign Office. How many visas have been issued during the last three years?
A: I am afraid I do not have the exact figure, readily available, to share with you.
Q: Has Pakistan’s view changed regarding the Taliban, fighting in and Pakistan?
A: If your question is related to the Pakistani Taliban, you may please put it to the Ministry of Interior.
For more information, contact:
Syed Haider Ali Jafri
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 921 0335 and 9056604