ISLAMABAD: European Union (EU) envoy Lars-Gunnar Wigemark urged Pakistan on Wednesday to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
“Pakistan government should condemn the violations by a very aggressive Russia against Ukraine if it wants to make a real gesture (towards EU),” Ambassador Wigemark told the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
The committee, headed by Sardar Awais Khan Leghari, had invited the EU envoy for a presentation on the status of ties between Pakistan and the 28-member European bloc and how the relationship could be strengthened.
The statement comes amidst warming of Pakistan-Russia ties after decades of tensions and mistrust
The statement comes amidst warming of Pakistan-Russia ties after decades of tensions and mistrust. The two countries signed last month an agreement aimed at strengthening their military relations. The pact, signed during the first visit by a Russian defence minister to Islamabad since the collapse of the Soviet Union, was hailed by both countries as historic.
The government has, in view of the reset with Moscow, taken a cautious stance on the Ukrainian crisis and avoided condemning Russia outrightly.
Several statements by the Foreign Office on Ukraine underscored the need for talks and diplomacy as the only option to resolve the matter, besides asking both sides to show restraint to achieve a peaceful settlement.
Replying to a question by a member of the committee, Mr Wigemark clarified that his remarks were not intended to ask Pakistan to take “drastic measures” in ties with Russia, but to underline the sensitivities and concerns in Europe about the country.
The EU sees Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty & territorial integrity”.
It would not be easy for Pakistan to ignore EU concerns. The EU has been an important trade and development partner for Pakistan over the years. Both bilateral and multilateral assistance from the EU and its member countries totals €600 million per year.
The EU-Pakistan trade volume last year was of €8.35 billion, accounting for 20 per cent of Pakistan’s total trade. The preferential market access GSP+ regime that became effective this year is expected to increase the volume of Pakistani exports to the EU.
INDIA: Ambassador Wigemark called upon Pakistan and India to resume their bilateral dialogue suspended since January last year because of skirmishes along the Line of Control in Kashmir.
“As regards relations with India, the recent deterioration of relations, including cross-firing at the Line of Control and Working Boundary, is worrying.”
He said: “Efforts to re-launch bilateral dialogue should remain a priority; the EU underlines this message both in Islamabad and Delhi.”
The government has increasingly appeared pessimistic about a breakthrough in ties with India.
Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz said on Tuesday after inaugurating the annual conference of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics: “India had suspended the dialogue process and now it is New Delhi’s responsibility to resume it.”
Ambassador Wigemark warned that the whole region could suffer because of difficulties in Pakistan-India relations.
He suggested a broader engagement between the two countries instead of focusing exclusively on the Kashmir dispute.
“The Kashmir issue needs to be resolved bilaterally and in accordance with international law and the UN resolutions,” he added.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2014