"Pakistan's Foreign Policy: Challenges & Opportunities" Statement by Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs Karachi - (11 February 2017)
Dr. Masuma Hasan, President PIIA
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me at the outset to thank the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs Karachi for inviting me. In fact my visit to your prestigious institute was long overdue. I am glad to fulfill my promise to visit PIIA whenever I will be in Karachi. I hope my talk followed by your comments and questions will offer some fresh insights into the subject of Pakistan Foreign Policy.
Foreign Policy is also an expression of nation's moral principles, its ideals and core values. Foreign policy is an important instrument of realizing national objectives and priorities. It is also an important part of the country's security policy.
Foreign policy formulation is guided by strategic and security environment at global and regional level as well as state of cooperation and confrontation in thecountry's immediate neighbourhood.
Pakistan's foreign policy and its formulation follow similar patterns and constraints within our national priorities and in global and regional setting. Let me briefly illustrate these trends before going into foreign policy challenges and opportunities.
At global level, profound transformations have taken place with implications on international stability and security.
Presently, we see the emergence of a multipolar system, as evidenced by inability of any single country or a single bloc of countries to address global challenges of security and development.
In the emerging multipolar order, sadly, inward looking policies are becoming more prominent at the expense of a liberal international system characterized by multilateralism like the United Nations system and regional integration models like the European Union. These are clearly reflected in Britain's decision to leave the EU and victory of US President Donald Trump in the US elections.
An important aspect of this emerging order is adiscernable shift in the global economic powerhouses, with the epicenter of economic development fast moving to Asia. With half of the world's population, faster growth rates, overall 40% of global GDP and vast development potential, it is widely predicted that the 21st century belongs to Asia.
Parallel to these global trends, Pakistan's regional landscape remains complicated.
On one hand, the phenomenal rise of China and its close relations with Pakistan, combined with our improved ties with Russia has have opened the prospects that finally, Pakistan geo-strategic location can be converted from a liability into an asset for economic development of the country.
On the other hand, this positivity is counter-balanced by India's continuing policy to pressurizePakistan, by sponsoring terrorism inside Pakistan to foment separatism or by ceasefire violations on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir to constrain Pakistan Army's ability to deploy more resources on the western borders with Afghanistan.
India also maintains direct military pressure on Pakistan through deployment of advance weapons systems, offensive troops positioning and exercises along the border to refine the capacity of a surprise attack, as envisaged in its Cold Start Doctrine.
Further complicating our regional situation is uncertainty in Afghanistan. Since the reduction of ISAF forces, fighting has spread in different parts of Afghanistan and the casualties suffered by Afghan security forces are much higher. These security challenges are compounded by political differences and economic difficulties.
Successful diplomacy is built on positive factors, to achieve longer term gains, while minimizing the harmful effects of negative factors. In our assessment, we have made progress on both.
The most important achievement of the past 3 years has been a major upgrade in Pakistan's relation with China. The flagship connectivity project with China is CPEC to optimize our economic and trade potential. By linking China with Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, CPEC will optimize trade potential and enhance energy security of China, Pakistan and our wider region. CPEC is also a catalyst for regional economic integration. It will foster regional harmony and forge closer relations among China, Pakistan and our neighbours.
Besides CPEC, Pakistan is also actively pursuing various other regional connectivity projects like TAPI, CASA 1000, IP, and Torkham-Jalalabad-Kabul motorway to take further advantage of Pakistan's geostrategic and geo-economic disposition at the crossroads of three regions.
Pakistan has also been able to improve relations with Russia and is then able to take full advantage of the new geo strategic landscape in which the centre of economic activity is shifting to Asia.
In this context, Pakistan attaches great importance to its membership of the SCO as it allows us to reiterate our interest in regional peace, stability and development and our support for regional cooperation against terrorism, extremism and counter narcotics.
Pakistan is also committed to the SAARC process. We regret the postponement of SAARC Summit in Islamabad and hope that this important regional organization will not be held hostage by one country to suits its own parochial agenda.
In terms of implementing our foreign policy priorities, let me point out that we are strengthening our relation beyond our neigbourhood, focusing on the Muslim World, East Asia and Europe. We seek to deepen cooperation in areas of security, counterterrorism, promoting economic and trade relations and seeking investment, which is essential for our economic growth. We are also utilizing United Nations and other multilateral organizations to promote our interests in areas of peace and security, sustainable development, climate change, energy and food security.
In the past two years, we have achieved remarkable success in countering terrorism at a time when the world is still deeply worried about this menace. Operation Zarb-e-Azb was started in June 2014 and National Action Plan launched in January 2015 are receiving worldwide appreciation. The heroic efforts and sacrifices of our armed forces in Zarb-e-Azb supplemented by intelligence based operations around all major urban centres, Madrassah reforms and conviction of terrorists through military courts, have weakened terrorists and extremists.
The resultant improvement in the security situation, specially in Karachi, has brightened the investment climate. As the energy shortages are overcome, specially for the industrial sector, the growth of the economy has also recovered from a low of 3% in the period 2006 to 2012 to about 5% with good prospects of higher growth in the coming years. The performance of Pakistan's equity markets and also in geo-politics has been widely acknowledged by major rating agencies and global media leaders like Forbs and Spectator.
This turn around in the Pakistan economy can become a key positive factor in further strengthening Pakistan relations with the Middle East and Africa in the coming years.
Having identified the main foreign policy achievements, let me now focus on three important foreign policy challenges that need to be managed with dexterity and wisdom. These are our relations with Afghanistan, India and the United States.
For relations with Afghanistan, we have taken a number of measures that promote our own security and contribute to creating a peaceful neighbourhood. These include:
* One--- promoting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace & reconciliation process. Internal political divisions within National Unity Government in Kabul and failure of relevant parties to articulate clear modalities of reconciliation complicate the peace process. Despite these constrains, we remain committed to promoting dialogue of Taliban with Kabul Administration.
* Two --- supporting Afghan government in economic development and national reconstruction. During the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan last month, Pakistan doubled the development assistance to Afghanistan by pledging an additional US$ 500 million. From this additional assistance package, last week, we awarded another 3000 scholarships for Afghan students to pursue higher education in Pakistan.
* Three --- Enacting robust border controls at Pak-afghan border to prevent spillover effect of instability in Afghanistan. We are upgrading entry/exit procedures at border by creating physical and technological infrastructure to interdict terrorists, drug traffickers and commercial smugglers.
Pakistan-India relations continue to challenge our vision of a peaceful neighbourhood.
The root of contention between the two countries is Jammu and Kashmir dispute. India denies a legitimate and popular freedom struggle in Kashmir by brandishing the region as its "integral part". But after the new Intefada, ignited by the extra judicial death of freedom fighter Burhan Muzaffar Wani, on 8 July, and which has continued for the past 7 months despite unprecedented brutality by Indian forces, no one now accepts the Indian narrative that the Kashmiri uprising in the result of "cross border terrorism". Voices even in India are going louder against this narrative.
We demand that for peace in Kashmir, India must face the ground realities and recognize indigenous nature of the Kashmiri movement and resume meaningful dialogue.
However if India persists with its hostile anti Pakistan policies and continues to malign Pakistan, Pakistan will also have to intensify its global campaign to expose the false Indian narratives.
Another important dimension of Pakistan India relations is the imperative of Strategic Stability in South Asia. For this, Pakistan is committed to maintaining Credible Minimum Deterrence.
Any preferential and discriminatory approach favouring India in the nuclear field can affect strategic stability in South Asia. It is in the context that we have successfully advocated that applications for NSG membership should be evaluated on basis of criteria and a non-discriminatory approach.
Managing relations with the United States is another foreign policy challenge. President Trump's election and his foreign policy initiatives and moves during the past three weeks on fighting terrorism including ISIS, on trade protectionism and immigration among others are attracting a lot of attention and coverage worldwide. This is not surprising at all because the US as the pre-eminent world power is a leader and trendsetter across the globe. Like many other interested and concerned countries, Pakistan is following the developments very closely.
We have also been in touch with President Trump's team as part of the regular high-level exchanges between two longstanding friends and partners. In fact Prime Minister was one of the first leaders to congratulate President Trump in a letter after his elections. Subsequently, both leaders also had a warm telephonic exchange, where they expressed their keenness to build a strong relationship in view of the common interests and shared goals.
Based on the interactions with the new Administration so far, we have good reasons to look forward to a positive and constructive engagement with the United States. We are convinced that a strong partnership between our countries remains critical to promoting and sustaining peace, security and stability in the wider region. We would like to build on the important gains that our countries have made over the years in fighting terrorism. As staunch believers in free enterprise, fair trade and entrepreneurship, the present government is also keen to actively explore mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities with the US that would help generate jobs and prosperity in the two countries.
Given the state of flux in global geo-political environment and growing turmoil in parts of the world, we believe that this was the time for countries to pursue policies that promote harmony, inclusiveness and greater inter-state cooperation particularly to jointly fight the scourge of terrorism. Accordingly, we have maintained that approaches and initiatives, which could potentially divide the world along religious, ethnic and racial lines or used by terrorists as propaganda tools to advance their narratives must be eschewed.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you would have gathered from this brief analysis Pakistan's ground realities are rapidly changing for the better. Improvement in the security situation has led to visible signs of economic revival and higher investment. Government has accordingly set out to pursuing vigorously the priorities of expanding investment and trade as the main focus of our foreign policies.
Due to strong counterterrorism measures, internal reforms, active pursuit of energy and infrastructure projects and prudent economic policies pursued by the present Government, a stable, strong and economically developed Pakistan is not a distant dream but an approaching reality. Pakistan's foreign policy priorities that I have outlined above will ensure an early dawn of this approaching reality.
Let me conclude by pointing out that all foreign policy initiatives require a stable and supportive domestic environment and across the board political consensus. I hope that will be forthcoming in the wider national interest.