Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. — Photo by AFP
ISLAMABAD: Newly-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday outlined the priorities of his government’s foreign policy, stressing immediate attention on Pakistan’s neighbouring countries.
In a message for all heads of Pakistan’s missions, the prime minister said a policy of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation would be pursued by Pakistan.
“Unless the region is peaceful, our efforts for growth and development will not meet with success. I stress on the importance of developing regional consensus on supporting a stable government and peace in Afghanistan," said Sharif.
With India, the prime minister stressed upon the need to progressively pursue normalcy in bilateral relations, while actively seeking solutions for all outstanding issues, including the disputed Jammu & Kashmir region.
On relations with the US, Sharif noted that the two countries have many areas of common interest. “We will build on convergence and wherever there is divergence, we will work to try to minimise and remove such divergence.”
“With China, which has always been a great friend and a significant economic partner, Pakistan will strengthen this valuable and much appreciated strategic relationship.”
With Russia, which is an important partner and regional power, we shall continue to enhance ties, the prime minister’s message said.
The prime minister stated that the people of Pakistan had pronounced themselves clearly on the future direction that the country should take.
He said the government would be guided by the wisdom of the people, the vision of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the desire to see Pakistan acquire its rightful place in the comity of nations.
“Heads of missions and embassies, that are our first line of defence and our primary interface with the outside world, have important roles to play to achieve this objective,” the message said.
The prime minister also provided an outline of priorities of the government on foreign policy to serve as basic guidelines for the embassies and missions abroad.
Prime Minister Sharif said national interests would drive Pakistan’s foreign policy in all circumstances, and there was an across the board consensus on this.
The premier noted that Pakistan’s large, youthful population’s potential needed to be harnessed for the country’s development.
The message further stated that the core of the country’s internal strength lay in sustained economic growth, resulting in the overall well-being, progress and prosperity of the people of Pakistan. It added that Pakistan’s diplomatic missions had a pivotal role in advancing this central objective of the national agenda.
The prime minister directed the missions to aggressively pursue economic diplomacy --promotion of Pakistan’s interests in the realms of trade, foreign investment, and economic cooperation.
Effective economic diplomacy would require a synergistic relationship between the diplomatic missions and relevant stakeholders in Pakistan, including the ministries as well as the business community at large. The economic ministries and department must provide the requisite information and backup support needed by the missions to undertake practical steps for facilitating traders and current and prospective investors at both ends.
Prime Minister Sharif expressed his firm commitment to address the energy crisis facing Pakistan in the shortest possible time. He encouraged the heads of missions to identify potential bilateral and multilateral partners to help to address the energy crisis and formulate tangible project proposals in the traditional and renewable energy sectors.
Stressing the importance of science, technology and education, the prime minister also directed the missions to actively reach out to institutions and the private sector in search of technologies and know-how in order to develop institutional linkages between the country’s research and educational centres with those abroad.
He expressed the desire to strengthen relations with countries in the Middle East, adding that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran were friendly countries with which Pakistan would continue to pursue close cooperative relations.
The prime minister’s message added that despite its recent economic troubles, Europe remained an important player on the global scene and was Pakistan’s largest trading partner.
“We would continue to engage with European countries, both bilaterally with individual countries, as well as multilaterally with the European Union.”
On terrorism, the prime minister said the government would develop a comprehensive strategy and a national consensus in consultation will all political parties, security forces, media and the civil society in dealing with the challenge. His message moreover said that at the same time, it was imperative to address the external dimension of terrorism.
“This would require plugging the sources of external funding of various extremists groups besides seeking cooperation of the regional and global community,” the premier’s message said.
Prime Minister Sharif directed that one of the main tasks of Pakistan’s embassies would be to look after the increasingly large number of Pakistanis living abroad who were an asset for Pakistan. He directed the embassies to provide efficient consular services and protect the interests of overseas Pakistanis.
He moreover directed the missions to make concerted efforts to project Pakistan’s positive image abroad and promote the country’s historical heritage, music, arts, culture and cuisine.