KARACHI: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said the world cannot afford to go back into another “era of Cold War or bloc politics”, and Pakistan will be happy to play a positive role in bridging differences between the United States and China. He made the remarks in an interview with Newsweek magazine’s senior foreign policy writer Tom O’Connor published on Monday.

The premier touched on various subjects, including US-China strained relations, situation in Afghanistan, fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war, militancy in Pakistan and his plan to bring the nation together.

Talking about heightened friction between the United States and China, Mr Sharif said while Pakistan’s relationship with China “is very special”, it had also maintained a long-standing historic bilateral relationship with the United States covering “all issues of mutual interest”.

“The world can ill-afford [a] descent into another era of Cold War or bloc politics. I believe polarisation would have serious consequences for the global economy afflicted by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis,” the prime minister said.

Asked whether Pakistan could play a role in de-escalating tensions between the two countries, the premier said Pakistan’s foreign policy was one of “friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world”. “If China and the US so desire, Pakistan would be happy to play a positive role to bridge their differences, as we had done in the past.”

About the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Mr Sharif said Pakistan had been emphasising a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. He said Pakistan was “committed to having friendly relations with all major powers of the world, including Russia”.

Afghanistan and militancy

Talking about Afghanistan, Mr Sharif said the global community’s initial concerns, including avoiding a protracted conflict, ensuring safe evacuations, regulating the flow of migrants, and ensuring humanitarian assistance, were handled in a “relatively satisfactory manner”.

On militant attacks in Pakistan, including those targeting Chinese nationals, the premier said it was no secret that Pakistan was “one of the biggest victims of state-sponsored terrorism that is planned, supported and financed by hostile intelligence agencies”.

He went on to say that terrorist attacks against Chinese nationals were “aided and abetted by forces inimical to the Pakistan-China strategic partnership”.

Talking about his plan for bringing the nation together, Mr Sharif asserted that the government was changed through a “constitutional process”.

He said the political parties part of the coalition government represented 70 per cent of the electorate, making the current government “truly national in nature”.

For democracy to function effectively, all political parties that come to power would have to improve their delivery, he said: “Performance in the office alone can provide longevity to the public office holders.”

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2022

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