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Islamabad to continue engagement with Washington: Janjua

Updated January 07, 2018

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Tehmina Janjua.
Tehmina Janjua.

KARACHI: Foreign Se­cre­tary Tehmina Janjua has said that Pakistan will continue to have engagement, as far as possible, with the US because America is not only a global power but also has its presence in the region, and “for us it’s almost our neighbour”.

Delivering a lecture on ‘Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Issues’ at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) here on Saturday, she said: “We need to continue to have a measured response to all the rhetoric coming out of the US.”

In reply to a question, the foreign secretary said President Donald Trump’s tweet on Jan 1 could be well thought out or he was just being his impulsive self, or it could be a result of any other reason such as the fact that the US is not doing well in Afghanistan.

Says Foreign Office officials need to come out of the building and talk to people

Giving her reasons for speaking at IBA, Ms Janjua said at the outset that the Foreign Office needed to come out of its building and talk to the people. Then she remarked, “I put my foot in the mouth when I decided to come [here] today, especially when Mr Trump put his foot in the mouth when he sent out that tweet.”

She began her presentation by highlighting the objectives of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Talking about the global and regional environment, she pointed out that “America first” was the slogan that came up with Mr Trump coming to power... At that point Ms Janjua commented, “The tweet that came on Jan 1 was a tweet that came for many reasons. We are trying to analyse why that tweet came. It could have been some briefing material given to him in the morning… What triggered it? Because we mustn’t forget that the meetings we had with the Americans (General Mattis) before that were positive… Yet on Jan 1 the New Year’s gift to the world were two tweets: there was one about Pakistan and the other about Iran. Why was the president of the United States at four o’clock in the morning thinking about Pakistan and Iran? In Iran, there was something happening there, but Pakistan, [a] question mark.”

She said Pakistan’s concerns were highlighted in the cabinet’s national security committee. They were: security provider role given to India in our region; border management issues; the US National Security Strategy, 2017, which wasn’t positive. But, she said, this was all a pattern with the US South Asia policy.

The foreign secretary said one of the reasons for the situation was the rise of China as an economic and military power perceived as the challenger to the US dominance.

She said in Afghanistan the India-US nexus was very much there. There were ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan, so when they talked about “sanctuaries in Pakistan, we’d been telling our American friends that as far as Pakistan is concerned there is no organised presence of the Haqqani network. And if you have any information, through intelligence sharing we can address this issue”. On the contrary, she argued, Pakistan had expressed concern over the sanctuaries in Afghanistan that were being used by anti-Pakistan groups.

With respect to the Middle East, Ms Janjua said Pakistan’s challenge was to find a balance with its friends in the Gulf region.

“We are very satisfied with the relations we have with Russia.”

Highlighting the opportunities that Pakistan had, the foreign secretary said it was to increase regional and global connectivity along with its membership of regional organisations.

She said current focus of Pakistan’s foreign policy was on having a strategic partnership with China; continue promoting peace with Afghanistan; return of Afghan refugees with dignity; focus on border management with Afghanistan; maintaining principled position for a comprehensive dialogue with India, etc.

She said Pakistan was China’s partner in the Belt and Road Initiative. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was a pathway to industrial development in Pakistan, she added.

Answering a question on Pakistan being put by the US on watch list for violation of religious freedom, Ms Janjua said it had political reasons because right next door [in India] mob lynching of Muslims and minorities took place but no one took notice of it.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2018