Pakistan desires relationship with US that is in sync with its 'changed priorities': Qureshi

Published December 14, 2021
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses the Margalla Dialogue Forum 2021 in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses the Margalla Dialogue Forum 2021 in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said Pakistan wanted a relationship with the US that was in line with the changed priorities of the former from "geopolitics to geo-economics".

Addressing the Margalla Dialogue Forum 2021 in Islamabad, the foreign minister said: "We value our relations with the US. Looking towards the future, we don't want a transactional relationship with the US. We want multifaceted ties that are not susceptible to the vagaries of regional and international policies.

"In line with Prime Minister Imran Khan's vision for a shift from geopolitics to geo-economics, we want a relationship with the US that is in sync with our changed priorities."

Qureshi added that enhanced trade and investment ties with the US, along with cooperation in regional connectivity would work for the benefit of both countries.

With Russia, he said Pakistan’s diplomatic outreach had not only led to a rapprochement but opened doors for reinvigorated relations in the security and economic realms.

“The Pak-Russia trajectory is contributing to stability in the region and we will continue to strengthen it,” he maintained.

The foreign minister said: “The upshot is that a country like Pakistan sitting astride the crossroads of South, Central and West Asia cannot make binary choices. We will remain equidistant, accessible to all, reaching out to all.”

“And, directly connected to all this, is the situation in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the United Nations had also warned that 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s 38 million people were facing hunger or starvation.

“There is a dire humanitarian crisis looming which has consequences not only for the people of Afghanistan but indeed us as neighbours, the region and beyond,” FM Qureshi said.

He added that Pakistan will host an "extraordinary session" of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on December 19 to mobilise support for providing adequate food, medicine and housing to millions of Afghans in dire distress.

“Indeed, I believe Pakistan hosting the OIC Extraordinary Meeting of Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan is in line with the leadership role that the country has demonstrated in the region,” he highlighted.

Qureshi said that from facilitating peace talks andshowing tremendous leadership across unprecedented rescue and evacuation operations to working closely with international partners for humanitarian outreach and bringing together neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and international stakeholders for a coordinated approach, Pakistan continued to work at every level for a stable, peaceful and prosperous regional future.

“We also continue to host over 4m Afghan refugees. We have advocated and worked for the establishment of an inclusive polity in Afghanistan, respecting the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities as well as of women,” he added.

FM Qureshi said the Afghan Government has assured all its neighbours that their soil will not be allowed to be used for terrorism, adding, that the same message has been given by Kabul to extra-regional powers.

“The future of successful foreign policy hinges then on not repeating the strategic blunder of the early 1990s that led to a spate of civil wars, drought and terrorism, whose consequences we have been facing for the past 30 years. The world must learn from its mistakes,” he stressed.

Speaking about the future of foreign policy and the role geo-economics was playing, the foreign minister described Pakistan’s relations with China as resilient and poised to grow further.

“The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project, will leverage economic geography and connectivity of the three contiguous continents — Asia, Europe and Africa — ushering in prosperity for all global citizens,” he added.

'It takes two to tango'

​Speaking about the foreign policy challenges vis a vis India, the foreign minister said that Pakistan’s quest for peace and geo-economic strength could not be a solo performance, adding, “It takes two to tango.”

Soon after taking office, he recalled that the incumbent government had made overture after overture, unilaterally, to open channels of communication, to build confidence and to engage India.

“Our eastern neighbour, however, chose to close all doors on any kind of talks. What’s more, it took the most drastic militaristic steps to invade and lay siege to the disputed territory of Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), disenfranchising its 14m people and brutalise them,” he added.

The foreign minister said that ​New Delhi’s actions in IIOJK have created a conundrum for Indian apologists in Kashmir and even for India’s foreign friends.

“Indian atrocities are too egregious to be masked by the veneer of secularism and democratic pretensions,” he regretted.

Qureshi said that it was the duty of the United Nations and the international community to hold India accountable for this unconscionable state of affairs.

​“India must realise that without resolving the Kashmir issue, we cannot free the peoples of South Asia from perennial instability. Without the necessary global condemnation and intervention, the region will continue to remain insecure and peace and prosperity, a major challenge,” he maintained.

Covid and climate change

FM Qureshi said that while both developed and developing countries were vulnerable to the devastations of the global pandemic, Pakistan had done well in the fight against the coronavirus by using a mix of smart lockdowns and aggressive vaccination campaigns.

“The threat is not over. Omicron — the new mutant — casts its ominous shadow and we are bracing for fighting it. Each nation must play its part individually and communally to fight a virus that knows no boundaries: we are all equally vulnerable,” he added.

Qureshi said that same was the case with climate change, which affected all, without discrimination. “Pakistan walks the extra mile to meet climate change goals because it is a compelling national priority,” he added.

He said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank (WB) forecasted that Pakistan will incur losses of up to $3.8 billion annually due to the rise in temperatures in the next two decades.

“Last month, at the COP26 Climate Summit, Pakistan unveiled its Ecosystem Restoration Initiative (ESR), with the support of the World Bank. At the summit, Pakistan also signed the US-led Global Methane Pledge,” he added.

The foreign minister said that the premier's vision and roadmap for the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami and Clean Green Pakistan will go a long way in making Pakistan a model country to combat climate change and its impact.

Change in diplomacy

The foreign minister also highlighted Pakistan’s significant efforts in promoting interfaith harmony and tolerance, adding that the prime minister had continuously alerted the world at the highest forums about the threat posed to world peace by Islamophobia and misguided notions of racial superiority.

​“True to our commitment, we sponsored a resolution at the 47th OIC Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Niamey in 2020. The resolution inter-alia called for the declaration of March 15 as the International Day to combat Islamophobia,” he added.

Qureshi asserted that diplomacy in the 21st century, in a post-Covid world, needed a multi-faceted outlook and one that goes beyond the traditional.

“One that is cognisant of a world where relationships are changing based on geo-economics, access and the use of technology and people-to-people contact, made all the more accessible with digital growth,” he said.

Qureshi added that a multi-dimensional outlook and approach would open new vistas for Pakistan’s footprint across the world, enabling it to assume a leadership position in addressing the challenges of a changing geopolitical landscape.

He said that with the recent intensification of strategic competition between global powers, making world peace fragile and diplomacy unpredictable, Pakistan had made a strategic pivot from geopolitics to geo-economics.

“This has made economic diplomacy all the more important,” he said.

“Indeed, we live in times of uncertainty. The world order seems in a state of severe stress and disarray. In these times, foreign policy and geopolitics are largely linked to geo-economics. I have consistently maintained, from here on, the economy is in many ways our strategic compass with a dominant presence as priority of foreign policy,” Qureshi remarked.

He stressed that positioning Pakistan as a geo-economic centre with unparalleled regional connectivity had to come as a mindset from the top-down.

“We have had to reset the existing geopolitical mindset and embrace the importance of geo-economics,” he added.

FM Qureshi said that Pakistan was the fifth most populous nation with 220m people, 64pc of whom were below the age of 30 and according to estimates by Forbes and UNDP, approximately 80m were middle class.

“We need to tap into this growing human capital and our abundant natural resources,” he stressed.

Highlighting the benefits of a focus on geo-economics, Qureshi shared with the audience that as of November 2021, Pakistan’s exports to the UK had grown 28pc in a Covid year.

“Also, since our Engage Africa Conference in December 2019 in Islamabad, trade with Africa has gone up 7pc,” he mentioned.

Qureshi said that according to Bloomberg, this year alone, $300m have been invested in start-ups in Pakistan by the US, Singapore, and UAE.

“This is a modest beginning with a huge surge expected in the tech industry in the near future,” he added.

Qureshi referred to the “FM Honours list” he launched in 2019 and said it was to recognise Overseas Pakistanis for their tremendous contributions through technology and the digital landscape.

“Make no mistake, our diaspora plays a huge role in representing Pakistan’s policy interests across the globe,” he remarked.

FM Qureshi said that connecting the economy with the future of foreign policy brought him to a critical tool of modern diplomacy; the digital sphere.

“Big tech, by amassing and monopolising data, is outgrowing capitalism as we know it, by redesigning supply chains, virtual reality and the way we think and live.

“It is data control that is influencing mindsets, controlling narratives and ultimately, crafting the perception game. Staying connected, staying ahead and staying alert in the digital space is of paramount importance to achieving foreign policy goals,” he added.

The foreign minister said there was no doubt that Covid had accelerated the digital diplomacy trajectory.

“Diplomacy is no more singularly reliant on leadership to leadership telephone calls or state visits. Technology has never before played such a definitive role in relationships,” he remarked.

FM Qureshi said that bilateral political consultations as well as multilateral conferences were all happening online.

“Today, perception wars are won and lost on Twitter. So what better place for diplomacy than online, where you use less resources to achieve even greater outcomes in shorter amounts of time,” he added.

Qureshi said that the Foreign Office had very clearly prioritised digital alliances, entering for instance as a founding member of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-led Digital Cooperation Organisation in record time.

“In fact, four top professionals from Pakistan have joined the organisation’s secretariat in Riyadh, in leadership positions. This is an important first step towards linking digital diplomacy with the digital economy for the future of foreign policy,” he added.

The foreign minister said in the same spirit, just 10 days ago he collaborated with Norwegian multinational Telenor to launch an agri-tech app, that was connected to over 10,000 farmers across Pakistan to optimise their production and in turn, the country's exports.

“Such is the nature of the digital economy. These revolutionary scientific changes are already impacting war and peace, climate change, our economies, our geopolitics, and our ways of life,” he remarked.

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