ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Tuesday that the government would not compromise national interest in any of its foreign engagements.
He was answering questions during a press conference held to brief journalists about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia. Foreign policy issues including the situation in Gaza, Afghan peace, and India also came up during the session.
“Pakistan knows how to defend its interests. The government is not oblivious to that,” Mr Qureshi said while responding to concerns that renewed engagement with Saudi Arabia could be costly for Pakistan.
“Pakistan is not paying any price for it,” he said and underscored that a new direction had been set in the bilateral relationship in which there was a realisation that win-win cooperation benefited both sides.
Qureshi says no compromise over national interest in foreign engagements
The foreign minister said that the PM’s visit helped defeat the designs of the elements that had been trying to drive a wedge between Islamabad and Riyadh.
Emphasising the importance of the timing of the renewal of ties, he said major changes were taking place in the Middle East where Qatari emir and Turkish foreign minister were visiting the kingdom and Riyadh and Tehran had established backchannel contacts to de-escalate their tensions.
He explained the structure of the newly constituted Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council that would help the two countries steer their bilateral ties. The council, whose secretariat would be based in the foreign ministries of the two countries, has three strands – security and politics; economic cooperation; and information and culture.
Mr Qureshi said that the council would provide for the institutional mechanism needed to take the relations forward, which was missing earlier.
He believed that under the renewed engagement economic ties would grow and the two countries would have increased bilateral investment and trade. Moreover, it would lead to more jobs for Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia, which would be needing additional 10 million workforce in coming years. Pakistan, he said, had been assured of a major share in those jobs.
Pakistan, he said, would also get $500 million from the Saudi Fund for use for hydropower projects, infrastructure development, and renewable energy initiatives.
He strongly condemned the Israeli violence against the Palestinians and urged the international community to stop the Israeli atrocities. He also called for an end to forced evictions of Palestinians from their houses.
The foreign minister said that in his telephonic conversation with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday night, he was told that Turkey would propose an emergency ministerial level meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for effectively raising the voice of Muslim Ummat on the Palestinian issue.
He said that efforts were also being made to convene a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly for de-escalation of the situation.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021