ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday rejected the opposition’s criticism of ‘diplomatic isolation’ and called for forging bipartisan consensus on foreign policy issues.
Winding up a debate in the Senate on the foreign policy, Mr Qureshi invited lawmakers of the opposition for a briefing on external affairs and developing consensus on different issues related to it.
“The foreign policy is linked to state’s interests,” he emphasised while cautioning against developing rival views on relations with external world.
The foreign minister offered to visit the opposition leaders, in case they did not want to come over to him.
“The government is open-minded. We are not narrow-visioned on this,” he asserted.
Senators offered briefing on foreign affairs to forge consensus
The foreign minister rejected the opposition’s criticism of the country facing diplomatic isolation and said that it had not happened despite India’s desires and efforts.
In this regard, he pointed to success at the UN Human Rights Council, to which Pakistan was re-elected in last October; UN Economic and Social Council, where Pakistan is currently holding the presidency; and the seven per cent growth in trade with Africa last year.
He, however, said that the government was aware of the “challenges, pitfalls, and spoilers” and had a plan for moving forward.
Mr Qureshi said that the challenges in the foreign policy domain were not new and some were longstanding and preceded the current government.
He also touched upon some of the important relationships.
The foreign minister said that there were important convergences with the new Biden administration in Washington on various aspects of the Afghan conflict, especially with regard to withdrawal of troops and reduction in violence.
He said that he had written a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, even before he spoke to him last week, in which he had emphasised the convergences.
In the region, he said, the government desired friendly ties with all its neighbours.
He contended that Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan had improved and Kabul had, along with the international community, started acknowledging Islamabad’s support for peace process.
He also pointed out another shift in the approach on Afghanistan and said the government was no more interacting with only one ethnicity group in Afghanistan and had started reaching out to other important ethnic groups as well.
About India, he said, the government desired normal relations with it, but that couldn’t move forward because of lack of reciprocation from the other side. He blamed the current stalemate in ties on the extremist Hindutva mindset dominating India.
Mr Qureshi observed that ties with Iran had greatly improved during the current government’s tenure as reflected by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s six visits, Tehran’s support for the Kashmir issue and improvement in border management. Border markets are now being set up, he added.
The evergreen ties with China, he said, were further deepening. The second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he added, was under way which involved industrial relocation, transfer of technology and investment in agriculture — all of which would increase national productivity.
The foreign minister rejected the impression of lukewarmness in relations with Saudi Arabia. He argued that the loan given by Riyadh was time-bound and the government paid it when the foreign exchange reserves improved. The Saudi government, he pointed out, supported Pakistan at the United Nations and OIC meeting in Niamey (Niger).
About the UAE, Mr Qureshi said, he had been assured by his Emirati counterpart that their relations with India would not be at the cost of Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2021