ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that as a developing country facing serious economic and environmental challenges, Pakistan has no time for the Cold War-style bloc politics that appears to be making a comeback.
He was hinting at the US and China blocs amid strife in the two superpowers’ relations while addressing an event in Tokyo on Monday.
The foreign minister who is on a four-day official visit to Japan also met his Japanese counterpart and prime minister.
“We want to focus on delivering jobs and prosperity to our 230 million people — two-thirds of whom are below 30 years of age,” he stressed in his remarks at the Asian Development Bank Institute.
Says economy, climate ‘major challenges’; meets Japanese PM, counterpart
Mr Bhutto-Zardari hailed the Chinese investment in Pakistan’s power sector when the country was facing crippling electricity cuts that had paralysed its industries.
The opportunities created in Pakistan’s industrial, agricultural and energy sectors as a result of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects were not exclusive to any single country, the minister said.
While calling for enhanced regional connectivity for more trade, the foreign minister agreed Pakistan’s aspirations for deeper linkages and more trade would remain unfulfilled as long as lasting peace and stability in South Asia remain elusive.
“Pakistan’s position has always been clear that there can be no peace in South Asia until the region’s core dispute — the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir — is resolved through dialogue and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions and the principles of international law.”
Pakistan has always been ready to work towards such a resolution but the country has no “partner for peace in South Asia”.
While claiming that India was in the grip of “a religious hysteria” closing out any space for dialogue and diplomacy, he lamented the “disappointing silence” of the international community on India’s oppression in held Kashmir and provocations against a much smaller neighbour.
However, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said things must have to change as business as usual was no longer an option.
“We can only do this by leveraging our strategic location at the crossroads of Central and South Asia to foster economic connectivity and generate growth. This vision is the moving force behind our shift from geopolitics to geo-economics.”
Japan ‘a key development partner’
The foreign minister called Japan “a key development partner” and an important source of foreign direct investment and industrial infrastructure for Pakistan. “All this makes Japan one of Pakistan’s closest partners in Asia.”
“While Pakistan and Japan are situated in different corners of the Asian continent, we share important convergences in terms of our outlook and vision for our region.”
The Japanese expertise in building infrastructure was second to none and by joining hands, Pakistan and Japan can create a robust and efficient infrastructure network, boosting regional connectivity and enhancing not only bilateral but also regional trade volumes.
“More than anything, Pakistan and Japan can contribute to and enrich the discourse on issues of regional importance — especially conflict resolution, poverty alleviation, climate change, and global health.”
Meeting with Japanese PM, FM
The foreign minister also held separate meetings with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi and PM Fumio Kishida.
The two sides agreed to enhance their bilateral cooperation in diverse areas including trade, investment, human resource development and agriculture sectors.
Addressing a joint press conference after the meeting, FM Bhutto-Zardari said the two sides explored the possibility of working together on targeted programs with higher impact in the domains of solarisation, desalination and water purification and housing and infrastructure rebuilding in the flood-affected areas of Pakistan.
They also agreed to conduct skill assessment tests for the Japanese language in Pakistan to facilitate the movement of the skilled workforce. “We also deliberated on investments and joint ventures by Japanese enterprises in Pakistan.”
Mr Bhutto-Zardari added the two sides must stay engaged at all levels to further positive dialogue and continue exploring more avenues of cooperation.
Pakistan and Japan were long-standing friends and share a special bond based on deep-rooted linkages that go far in history and time.
The foreign minister also interacted with several Japanese business executives and representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Japan External Trade Organisation.
Aseefa ‘paying for her trip’
Separately, PPP has clarified that the foreign minister’s sister Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari who was accompanying him on the Japan visit, was bearing her own expenses, Dawn.com reported.
Ms Bhutto-Zardari has been under severe criticism after photos appeared on social media in which she could be seen sitting beside her brother at an event in Tokyo on Sunday. However, talking to Dawn.com, PPP Information Secretary Shazia Marri said Ms Bhutto-Zardari was not attending official meetings. “She has only attended the Pakistani community and Friends of Pakistan business community events.”
Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2023