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ISLAMABAD: Members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee have expressed serious reservations over President Donald Trump’s South Asia policy, which they said is geared at Pakistan’s expense to promoting India as a counterbalance to Chinese influence in the region.

They also expressed their concern over Indian activities in Afghanistan, which they said were not in the best interests of Pakistan.

The in-camera meeting, which was held at Parliament House, was chaired by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed and attended by Senators Mohammad Javed Abbasi, Asif Kirmani, Nuzhat Sadiq, Asad Junejo, Rehman Malik, Sherry Rehman, Anwarul Haq Kakar and Sitara Ayaz.

According to a statement issued from the Senate Secretariat, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, along with the foreign secretary and his team, gave a two-and-a-half-hour briefing to the committee on various issues ranging from the visit of the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to the meetings with the Iranian foreign minister. The briefing also touched on the important matters of the Financial Action Task Force, Pakistan’s relations with the Muslim world, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Afghanistan and India.

Mr Qureshi said that the CPEC was a key national project formed with overarching consensus and that the government was committed to taking it forward. He also said that he would be visiting Afghanistan soon and next week, foreign ministers of China and Turkey were scheduled to visit Pakistan.

He said that he would be looking for guidance from the foreign affairs committee to help him formulate policy, and promised to take the lead from parliament and the committee.

Considering the meeting was held on the Defence Day of Pakistan, the members also offered Fateha prayers for the many brave soldiers who have, over the years, laid down their lives for the nation and its defence. Senator Mushahid said that the entire nation saluted the martyrs who gave their precious lives to defend the country. The members also offered Fateha for Syed Ahmad Kirmani, father of Asif Kirmani, who was a distinguished leader of the Pakistan Movement.

Senator Mushahid said that the committee would speak with a single, united voice over matters of foreign policy — which he said must be laid out in the Foreign Office.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018