ISLAMABAD: During a seminar on Tuesday, senior journalist Zahid Hussein said Pakistan is lagging behind economically and has become isolated which is why there is a need for re-examining the country’s foreign policy. However, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi disagreed with Mr Hussein’s observation and said the current foreign policy is relevant to the needs at the time.
Speaking at a seminar titled “Is Pakistan Isolated? Regional Challenges and Opportunities’, which was hosted by the Institute for Policy Reforms (IPR), Mr Hussein said Pakistan has to change its course and gave the examples of India and China, saying the two countries have progressed and that they have focused on their economies.
“The current government has made policies for economic development, but they are yet to be implemented because Pakistan’s foreign policy is driven by national security. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor could be a game changer,” he said.
PM’s adviser disagrees,says foreign policy drafted according to needs of the country
The journalist said Pakistan’s economic growth rate has been 3pc for the last 10 years and compared this with that of India the economy of which has been growing by 8pc, while China’s economic growth rate has been 7pc over the same time.
“Pakistan has been left far behind, even by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” he said.
To this, Mr Fatemi said no foreign policy can be called a complete success or failure.
“The PML-N’s manifesto said that the foreign policy will focus on the economy. We have tried to have good relations with Afghanistan because we believe there will be no peace in Pakistan until there is peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
He added that a project of building a motorway from Peshawar to Central Asia is underway and that another motorway will be established between Peshawar and Chabahar. He said relations with Iran are also being focused on as the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project is also important.
He said Pakistan wants good relations with India and that the PML-N led government wanted to resume relations from how they were in 1999. However, he said, the sentiment has to be reciprocal for this to work.
“We have good relations with Arab countries and 100,000 Pakistanis will be sent to Qatar for employment. As far as the Nuclear Supplier Group is concerned, Pakistan has been working on this for months and though the application was given at the last moment, 11 countries supported Pakistan. This was all because of diplomacy,” he said.
He added that for the first time, Pakistan has an agreement for buying sophisticated weapons from Russia.
Also speaking at the event was eminent historian and author of ‘Pakistan, a Hard Country’, Prof Anatol Lieven who said the breakdown of Afghan peace talks has increased US animus and that during his visit to Washington, he heard questions about the justification of Pakistan’s position in the Afghan peace talks.
He said that though US hostility has increased, China continues to support Pakistan and warned that this support must not be taken as a carte blanche.
“No country wants Pakistan to cross the line between sheltering the Afghan Taliban and arming them. Pakistan will forfeit all goodwill if this were to happen. It is desirable to revive the peace talks,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2016