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Record of the Weekly Press Briefing on 29 December 2011

Islamabad: Opening Statement

This is our last weekly briefing of 2011. Before I recapitulate key developments in Pakistan’s foreign policy during the year, may I, on behalf of the Foreign Minister, Foreign Secretary, as well as on my own behalf and on behalf of all my colleagues, wish you all a very happy new year. I would also like to thank you for your cooperation and understanding throughout 2011.

Needless to say that foreign policy is a continuum driven by a country’s immediate, medium and long-term interests. It is determined by a complex web of internal and external variables. In brief, foreign policy is a sum-total of state’s interests abroad.
In this context, Pakistan’s foreign policy in 2011 continued to be steered by two broad objectives, namely, security and development. We vigorously pursued these objectives concomitantly on bilateral, regional and international planes.

Our all-weather relations with China attained newer heights. Together, we celebrated 2011 as the Year of Friendship. There have been several high-level bilateral visits and many celebratory events. The year ended with the visit to Pakistan by China’s State Councillor, Mr. Dai Bingguo, on 23-25 December.

Our Prime Minister has stated that the Pakistan-China friendship is etched in the minds and hearts of the people of Pakistan. During the State Councillor’s visit, the two countries signed a $ 1.6 billion Currency Swap Agreement, renewed the Five-Year Economic and Trade Cooperation Plan involving projects worth $ 14 billion and signed four agreements worth US$ 809 million for infrastructure and energy projects.

China will continue to be a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy for aeons to come. We take great pride in this unique and time-tested relationship.

Our relations with the European Union, an EU and G-8 member countries also moved forward. A five-year Pakistan-EU Engagement Plan has been finalized. Pakistan-EU Strategic Dialogue would be launched during Lady Catherine Ashton’s visit to Pakistan early next year. The EU trade package for Pakistan under Autonomous Trade Preferences is expected to be approved by the WTO in the near future.

Enhanced Strategic Dialogue was launched between Pakistan and the United Kingdom during Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Pakistan in April 2011.

Similarly, relations with other EU countries, especially France and Germany also improved and the high-level contacts continued.

Our Prime Minister visited France and the German Foreign Minister visited Pakistan twice during 2011. Germany has now become our largest trading partner in Europe.

With Russia, our relations are fast improving to our mutual benefit. The President paid an official visit to the Russian Federation and the talks there covered new grounds for bilateral cooperation. Russia has agreed to assist Pakistan in the repair and upgradation of the Pakistan Steel Mills, as well as to invest in different energy projects in Pakistan and in transregional projects, such as, CASA 1000 and TAPI.

During the Heads of Government Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which was attended by our Prime Minister, the Russian Prime Minister openly supported Pakistan’s full membership of the SCO. This reflects how close the two countries have come in the last three years.

Pakistan-US relations have witnessed many ups and downs. From the Raymond Davis case to the 26 November US/NATO attacks on the two Pakistani posts at Salala, things have come to a point where it is necessary to rewrite our bilateral terms of engagement.

This will be good for both our countries as policies based on realistic and shared objectives would be far more tenable than a relationship facing frequent strains because of opaqueness and unilateral actions. We want our relations with the US to be based on mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual interest.

Our relations with our neighbours are our foremost priority. Pakistan has always worked and will continue working towards promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a sovereign country and the reconciliation process should be Afghan-led and Afghan owned.

Ours is an all-encompassing relationship. Thousands of Pakistanis are actively contributing in the development of Afghanistan. An inter-state relationship that has its roots in their people is bound to flourish whatever the challenges may be.

Dialogue with India has been resumed. We sincerely hope this dialogue process is uninterrupted and result-oriented, leading to resolution of all issues, especially the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is essential to keep the Thimphu spirit alive.

Our relations with Iran are special and have been strengthened in all areas. Pakistan has always supported States’ right to peaceful uses of nuclear technology in accordance with their international obligations.

Relations with ECO countries are also strengthening, especially economic and trade cooperation.

Pakistan and Turkey enjoy excellent relations which are reflected in convening High-level Cooperation Council meetings in Pakistan and Turkey. Our relationship is based on mutual respect and mutual interest. This is a relationship rooted in history and firmly embedded in shared objectives and common outlook.

Similarly, relations with the other ECO countries are also improving substantially and substantively.

Pakistan is one of the key members of the OIC. We, therefore, attach enormous significance to our relations with Muslim countries around the world. Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC countries are our strong partners. We are proud of the fact that a large Pakistani diaspora is actively participating in the development of these countries, as well as sending valuable remittances to Pakistan.

During 2011, we have worked hard to get Full Dialogue Partnership with ASEAN to our mutual benefit. There has been some good progress. We are actively engaged with all ASEAN countries to forge strong bilateral ties, especially in the economic and commercial spheres. The Preferential Trade Agreement signed with Indonesia should go a long way in promoting our interests in the ASEAN region.

Relations with Japan and South Korea, which are also FODP members, have also witnessed increased activities. Relations with Australia have also improved. Our Prime Minister’s meeting with his Australian counterpart in the margins of the Perth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October helped provide a significant boost to bilateral relations.

We will continue to pursue our ‘Vision East Asia’ policy with vigour and a focused sense of purpose.

We will also continue making efforts towards deepening ties with African and Latin American countries.

Pakistan enjoys great respect in the world community. Our election to the UN Security Council and UNESCO’s Executive Board is testimony to Pakistan’s strong credentials. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Pakistan would actively and constructively contribute towards promoting peace, security and prosperity around the world in accordance with the UN Charter and International Law.

Let me conclude by saying that under the guidance of the country’s leadership, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue pursuing the foreign policy that is based on our national interests. There will never ever be compromise on our national sovereignty and dignity.

Q and A Session

Q: Pentagon has indicated that action might be taken against the personnel involved in the November 26 incident. How would Pakistan respond to such a step?

A: I am not sure about these media reports. As I have been saying all along, we want to have a good relationship with the US, a relationship that is based on mutual trust and mutual respect. Let us wait for the parliament to complete the review process.

Q: Do you really want action against the culprits of the November the 26 attack? Pakistan was not part of the investigation team and media diplomacy is also going on as we are not on speaking terms with the US. Can we say that our relations with the US are at the lowest ebb?

A: We are on speaking terms with the US. Doubtless there are problems but we are trying to put our relations on a track that is transparent and in sync with our aspirations. I am reluctant to discuss specifics, as the matter is with the Parliamentary Committee.

Q: What about the action? Would Pakistan like to have an action against those who were involved in the 26 November attack?

A: I would not like to comment on specifics as we are still examining the investigation report and our response would be articulated as soon as possible.

Q: There is a disturbing development in our neighbourhood. India is about to be in possession of two nuclear submarines. One of which is built with cooperation from Russia. Is Pakistan properly funding its nuclear programme without engaging in an arm race?

A: We are looking at these developments very closely. Rest assured, there will be no compromise in terms of maintaining the credibility of our deterrence.

Q: Our Embassy in Washington issued a response on the investigation report on the 26 November attack to some Congressmen. Do you confirm it?

A: Our response was circulated on 22 December. That was on the basis of what was initially reported. By and large it was contended that the findings of the investigation reports were short on facts.

Q: Who has the mandate to formulate final response to this investigation report?

A: This was clarified by the Prime Minister himself that the parliamentary committee on national security is in the process of formulating its recommendations regarding the terms of our engagements with the USA which would be submitted to a joint session of parliament.

Q: But our armed forces have already rejected the investigation report. ISPR has done so. PTV also showed a news item last night to this effect as well?

A: I have not seen any comment by ISPR. It was reported by some newspapers today but there has not been any official response yet. Our relevant authorities are still examining the report.

Q: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il died a few days ago. Pakistan and North Korea had good relations in past in terms of nuclear and missile technology cooperation. What would the impact of his death?

A: We condoled the death of the North Korean leader. Our leadership has sent condolence messages to his successor. We understand the grief of the North Korean people and wish them stability and prosperity.

Q: Has somebody visited the North Korean Embassy in Islamabad for condolences?

A: Yes, we did sign the condolence book.

Q: Who signed the condolence book?

A: Let me check and get back to you.

Q: What was India’s response to nuclear CBMs and Pakistan’s proposal on cannon drawdown?

A: Several proposals were discussed. The Working Group met after the hiatus of 4 years. This Working Group discussed new initiatives and reviewed implementation of the CBMs already in place. There is no point in speculating about the response of one side or other side about some specific proposals. Let us wait for the next session of the Working Group.

Q: It has been said that Afghan reconciliation process should be Afghan led and Afghan owned. Does it mean a process of reconciliation between Afghan Government, Afghan Taliban and Northern Alliance?

A: Genuine reconciliation would mean reconciliation involving all Afghan groups.

Q: President Zardari in his December 27 address has indicated some policy shift towards Iran. Any comment? Has Pakistan accelerated Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline?

A: Our relations with Iran are special. There is no policy change. There is desire to accelerate completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, given that we are an energy-deficient country. Our relevant ministries are conscious of this fact. Early completion of the project is most desired by us.

Q: It is good to see that most of the questions asked are not India-specific. What do the reports of our High Commission in New Delhi indicate about the condition of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Is there any hope for improvement in the condition of the people of Jammu and Kashmir?

A: We would like the Jammu and Kashmir dispute to be resolved according to the relevant UN resolutions. Meanwhile, it is important that the overall situation improves for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

We support their legitimate aspirations and there is a debate going on in India as well, to this effect. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are against the Public Safety Act, the Disturbed Area Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. One hopes that these black laws would be revoked in order to improve the overall situation.

Q: Is any visit from Hurriyat leader is expected in near future?

A: No such visit is planned in near term.

Q: There has been no drone attack in Pakistan since November 26 attack on Salala check posts. Meanwhile Pakistan has taken control of Shamsi Air Base. Our Defence Minister has said that drones were being operated from Shamsi Air Base. Does our government feel sorry for the consent given to the US for operation of drone attacks?

A: I am not sure if our Defence Minister made such remarks.

Q: What is our level of cooperation with the US in war against terror at this moment?

A: Let ISPR respond to this question.

Q: What is the fate of the Afghan-Pakistan-US Trilateral mechanism?

A: You will come to know when there is any development on this count.

Q: Why did not Pakistan effectively raise the issue of the Salala attack in the UN as the US attack was a violation of the UN Charter?

A: The UN Security General was conveyed our sentiment through a letter by our Permanent Representative to the UN. The entire international community fully understands and appreciates our position and concerns.

Q: Iran has threatened to block the Hormuz strait, if needed. Any comment?

A: We believe that the issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme should be resolved peacefully and there is already a mechanism in place. Escalation of the situation will be in no one’s interest.

Q: What is the update of deaths of Pakistanis in boat accident in Indonesia?

A: A few minutes ago, I spoke to our Ambassador in Jakarta. Our Embassy there is doing a very good job under the leadership of Ambassador Sanaullah. They are in touch with the local authorities at Surabaya and Bali. The Chief of Hazara tribe, Sardar Saadat, would be arriving in Jakarta tomorrow morning. 103 dead bodies have been recovered, mostly decomposed.

It is therefore very difficult to establish their identity. Our embassy is working overtime to facilitate the identification of the bodies through DNA etc. So far, not a single dead body has been identified as of Pakistan national. The process of identification may take 2 to 3 weeks. Once identification is established we would start transferring bodies to Pakistan.

Our Embassy was in touch with seven survivors. 5 of them are not willing to return to Pakistan. The other two are willing to come back to Pakistan, and the Embassy is in the process of making necessary arrangements.

Q: Is back door diplomacy going on to end the deadlock between Pakistan and the US and what is the role of China and Russia in this regard?

A: Please wait for our parliamentary process to complete.

For more information, contact:
Syed Haider Ali Jafri
Personal Secretary
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 921 0335 and 9056604

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