March 19, 2021| Media Briefing|
Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Welcome to the Weekly Press Briefing of the Foreign Office.
Let me begin with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inaugural address at the first Islamabad Security Dialogue on 17 March 2021.
In his address, the Prime Minister underscored that Pakistan is pursuing a national vision, focusing on economic prosperity and human welfare.
He emphasized that Pakistan’s economic security lens prioritizes connectivity, domestic and regional peace and development partnerships around the world.
He added that National Security today includes many aspects, including climate security, food security and economic prosperity.
Talking about regional peace, the Prime Minister stated that economic prosperity cannot be sustained without peace in the neighborhood.
Emphasizing that the key to peace in our region lies in Afghanistan, the Prime Minister reiterated that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was in the best interest of Pakistan.
The Prime Minister underlined that Pakistan would continue to remain in full support and solidarity with the Afghan people as they march forward in the journey for peace and development.
On the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the Prime Minister urged India to give Kashmiris their right to self-determination in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
The Prime Minister also underscored that Jammu and Kashmir was the core issue between Pakistan and India and a peaceful resolution of the dispute, by giving Kashmiris the right to self-determination, would be beneficial for both the countries.
The Prime Minister added that India must take the first step in this regard and create an enabling environment for moving forward.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has been the leading international voice in raising awareness about the systematic rise of Islamophobia and promoting inter-faith harmony.
On 15 March, Pakistan joined other members of the OIC in observing the ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia.’
The 47th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), held in Niamey, Niger, in November 2020 had unanimously adopted a resolution to designate 15 March as the ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia’.
The resolution was presented by Pakistan.
Marking this occasion, the OIC Group also held a High-Level event in New York on 17 March 2021.
Addressing the High-Level Event, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi underscored that the idea behind observing this day was to build better understanding of Islam, show solidarity with humanity, and send a message of international solidarity and cooperation.
On the invitation of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs of Kuwait, H.E. Dr. Ahmed Nasser Al-Sabah visited Pakistan on 18-19 March 2021.
During the visit, Foreign Minister Al-Sabah called on the Prime Minister; held delegation level talks with Foreign Minister Qureshi and met with other dignitaries.
In his meeting with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Al-Sabah expressed his country’s firm resolve to further expand cooperation with Pakistan in diverse fields.
He also thanked the Prime Minister for Pakistan’s valuable cooperation, especially during the testing times of global pandemic.
The Prime Minister underscored the imperative of forging deeper economic, trade and investment cooperation between the two countries.
During delegation level talks between the two Foreign Ministers, the entire spectrum of bilateral relations was discussed.
The two sides agreed to enhance collaboration in all areas of mutual interest and work closely at regional and international fora.
Foreign Minister Qureshi briefed his counterpart on the economic potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in particular its Special Economic Zones.
Highlighting the investor friendly policies of the Government, Foreign Minister Qureshi invited Kuwait to benefit from the vast investment opportunities available in Pakistan.
The need for facilitating travel between Pakistan and Kuwait to provide impetus to bilateral trade was also emphasized.
The Foreign Minister of Kuwait appreciated the positive contribution of more than one hundred thousand expatriate Pakistanis towards the development of Kuwait.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a telephone conversation with the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG), Antonio Guterres.
Views were exchanged on a wide range of issues on the UN agenda including: the COVID-19 situation; economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic; international debt relief efforts; equitable availability of vaccines for the developing countries; peacekeeping; Jammu and Kashmir dispute; and the Afghan peace process.
Appreciating the Secretary General’s leadership during challenging times, the Foreign Minister welcomed his availability to serve a second term in office.
Foreign Minister Qureshi also expressed Pakistan’s full support for Mr. Guterres’ re-appointment for another five-year term.
The UN Secretary General valued Pakistan’s constructive contribution towards the effective functioning of the Organization in different areas of its work, calling Pakistan a “fundamental partner of the United Nations.”
To express solidarity with the Government and the brotherly people of Iraq, Pakistan is dispatching three planes-loads of COVID-19 related relief goods to the Republic of Iraq.
The first relief consignment has already reached Iraq.
We believe the COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge, which can only be contained with international solidarity and cooperation.
Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
During the last week, the Indian occupying forces have martyred four more Kashmiri youth in Shopian, Bijbehra and Sopore areas of IIOJK.
In the year 2021 alone, the Indian occupying forces have martyred fourteen innocent Kashmiris in “fake” encounters and staged “cordon and search” operations.
The unabated extrajudicial killings of Kashmiris are a clear violation of humanitarian norms and fundamental precepts of international law.
Pakistan calls for immediate and transparent judicial inquiry, under international scrutiny, into the extra-judicial killings of all innocent Kashmiris.
The International community must urge India to stop the egregious human rights violations in IIOJK, halt and reverse the demographic changes made since 5 August 2019, and take measures for resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
I thank you and am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.
Question: Recently, Chief of Army Staff and Prime Minister of Pakistan have stated that India should take first step to create an enabling environment to move forward. Do you think that understanding on the ceasefire between Directors General of Military Operations of India and Pakistan and upcoming talks on Indus Water Commission are indications of resumption of dialogue between the two countries? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, the Daily Mail International)
Supplementary Question: U.S. Senator has addressed a letter to the US Defence Secretary expressing deep concerns regarding deteriorating human rights situation in IIOJK and urged him to take up the issues of diminishing democratic values and growing human rights during the visit to India. How do you comment on this? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Supplementary Question: Following understandings between the two Directors General MOs, the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff have reiterated that India will have to take first step to ameliorate the strained relations between India and Pakistan. Can we say that the relations between the two countries are improving? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)
Answer: The Directors General Military Operations of India and Pakistan held discussions over the established mechanism of hotline contact. Reviewing the situation along the Line of Control (LOC) and all other sectors, the two sides agreed to strictly observe all agreements, understanding and ceasefire.
Pakistan has consistently underscored the need for implementation of the 2003 ceasefire understanding in letter and spirit for maintenance of peace along the Line of Control and for saving the precious lives of innocent Kashmiris.
The recent development is very much in line with Pakistan’s consistent position. The prime objective of the understanding is to save Kashmiri lives and alleviate the suffering of the Kashmiris living along the LOC.
We hope that India will observe the 2003 ceasefire in accordance with the bilateral understanding and established humanitarian norms and international law.
As for the Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan has always underscored the need for a meaningful dialogue and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes with India, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
Regarding your first question, we have seen the letter by the Chairman of the United States Committee on Foreign Relations Robert Menendez addressed to the US Secretary of Defense urging him to raise democracy and human rights concerns during his upcoming visit to India. The Chairman has specifically highlighted the “deteriorating situation of democracy in India”, “anti-Muslim sentiments”, “suppression of political dialogue and arrest of political opponents following the abrogation of article 370 in Kashmir”.
The letter is indeed a continuation of the international community’s expression of concerns on serious human rights situation in India and IIOJK.
We believe that the international community, including the United States, must urge India to stop its consistent and systematic human rights violations in IIOJK and take genuine steps to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in a peaceful manner in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions.
Question: The meeting of extended troika on the Afghan peace process was held in Moscow. At the same time, we have seen rising violence in Afghanistan. How do you comment on this? Can you please share details of the meeting? (Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq attended Troika meeting on the Afghan Peace Process held on 18 March in Moscow.
Pakistan, China, Russia and U.S are members of the extended Troika. Qatar and Turkey attended as special guests. In addition 10 members each from Kabul and Taliban also participated.
Pakistan thanked Russia for hosting this important forum at a critical juncture. We believe without peace our shared dream of connectivity, economic development and prosperity of our people and people of Afghanistan and the region will not be materialized.
Pakistan believes an exclusive approach towards negotiations and governance will significantly help the cause of sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
The International community needs to remain engaged in Afghanistan and help the county at this critical juncture.
We strongly support the peace process and stability in Afghanistan and we want to see a prosperous Afghanistan.
As for the rise in violence in Afghanistan, the Joint Statement on extended troika on peaceful settlement in Afghanistan calls on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to reduce the level of violence in the country to create an environment conducive to reaching a negotiated political settlement.
Pakistan repeatedly underscored the importance of reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire.
Question: Are you satisfied that India is cooperating regarding the Indus water talks and facilitating Pakistan delegation, including the issuance visas etc? Would you please share the names of delegates from Pakistan side? Would you also take up the Indian policy of water aggression? What other issues are expected to be discussed during the upcoming water talks? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) 1960, Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) is required to meet at least once a year.
The 116th Meeting of the PIC will be held in New Delhi on March 23-24.
A host of issues under the Treaty, including our objections on the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai Hydroelectric Plants, supply of information on new Indian projects on the western rivers and supply of flood data by India, will be discussed.
The meeting of Permanent Indus Commission is specifically held under the provisions of the IWT 1960, where only water related issues, which fall under the IWT, will be discussed.
As for the Pakistan’s delegation, it will be led by Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters, Syed Muhammad Meher Ali Shah and will include officials from the relevant departments.
Question: Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said that India desires good neighborly ties with Pakistan and is committed to addressing issues, if any, bilaterally, but any meaningful dialogue can only be held in a conducive atmosphere and the onus is on Islamabad to create it. Meanwhile, in his Remarks at Islamabad Dialogue Prime Minister Imran Khan said it is in India’s interest to have a dialogue with Pakistan for the just resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute according to the UN resolutions. India will need to take the first step. How do you see these statements especially in the backdrop of recent LoC understanding between Pakistan and India? (Naveed Siddique, Dawn)
Answer: We have seen the statement by the Indian Foreign Secretary. Such statements are not helpful in resolution of the disputes which are a hurdle in the way of peace and stability in the region.
Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute and the core issue between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan has always underscored the need for a meaningful dialogue and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes with India.
Our desire for regional peace was clearly spelled out by Prime Minister Imran Kahn when he stated that “if India takes one step towards peace, Pakistan will take two.”
The landmark Kartarpur initiative by Pakistan despite several challenges and the return of captured of Indian pilot Abhinandan after the shooting down of two Indian fighter Jets by Pakistan Air Force are also indicative of Pakistan’s desire for lasting peace in the region.
In his recent address at the inaugural session of the “Islamabad Security Dialogue”, Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again reiterated his desire for peace and resolution of all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir, through dialogue.
The Prime Minister also stated that it is India, which, through its unilateral and illegal actions of 5 August 2019, has vitiated the environment.
The onus is, therefore, on India to create the enabling environment necessary for a ‘meaningful engagement’.
The current situation in IIOJK is neither tenable nor acceptable. India needs to take corrective measures in IIOJK to move forward.
Question: The recent developments between Pakistan and India indicate that there is a shift in Pakistan’s policy. Do you think Pakistan and India are moving toward amelioration of relations? Secondly, the Afghan Foreign Minister has welcomed the United States proposal regarding formation of transitional Afghan government. However, the statement of Afghan President regarding the government of truly representatives is contradictory. How do you see this? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)
Answer: As for Pakistan’s policy on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, there is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on the issue that remains anchored in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. These Resolutions recognize the Kashmiris’ inalienable right to self-determination and unambiguously call for a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices.
As for talks with India, Pakistan has never shied away from talks. We have always called for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the internationally recognized dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
Regarding Afghanistan, Pakistan has consistently supported the Afghan Peace Process. Our positive contribution facilitated the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement and the subsequent initiation of Intra-Afghan Negotiations and Agreement on Rules and Procedures.
It is critical that the progress on the implementation of the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement is maintained and further built upon in order to achieve its stated objectives of a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan.
All sides must work together for an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.
Question: In his address at Islamabad Security dialogue, the Foreign Minister said that Pakistan will not be a part of any conflict in the region. The statement caused a lot of discussion on social media regarding Pakistan’s shift of policy on Jammu and Kashmir. Would you please comment? (Adeel Bashir, Roze News)
Answer: In response to an earlier question, I have already stated that there is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on Jammu and Kashmir that remains anchored in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.
The reference to the Foreign Minister’s statement is clearly out of context.
Question: Cricket World cup is scheduled to be held in India this year. Pakistan has asked for assurance of security of the Pakistani Cricket team and the Pakistani spectators. Are there any talks going on regarding this? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)
Answer: I would refer you to Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for details in this regard.
Question: Pakistan has repeatedly called upon India to rescind its actions of 5 August 2019; does that mean Pakistan has no objection to pre-5 August 2019 status quo? Secondly, Pakistan repeatedly states that there is no military solution, than what solution does Pakistan proposes for the Jammu and Kashmir dispute?
Additionally, which water projects will Pakistan take up with the Indian side? (Malik Saeed, Bol News)
Answer: As for the meeting of Permanent Indus Commission, I have already shared that a host of issues under the Treaty, including our objections on the designs of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai Hydroelectric Plants, supply of information on new Indian projects on the western rivers and supply of flood data by India, will be discussed.
Regarding your question on Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan’s position on the dispute is consistent. We continue to call for a just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute as per the aspiration of the Kashmiri people and numerous United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on the matter.
We condemn the unilateral and illegal Indian actions of 5th August 2019 as we believe that these are aimed at further disempowering the Kashmiris people and perpetuating the illegal Indian occupation. The demographic changes made in IIOJK since 5 August 2019 are a clear violation of UNSC resolutions and international law, particularly 4th Geneva Convention.
As for what solution does Pakistan propose for resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the solution is unambiguously provided in the relevant UNSC resolutions that call for a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices.
Pakistan has consistently maintained that the dispute needs to be resolved in accordance with the UNSC resolutions.
Question: Has there been any progress on the issue of Kuwaiti Visas to Pakistani citizens during the recent visit of Foreign Minister of Kuwait? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn)
Supplementary Question: Has Kuwait given any assurance to resolve visa issues for Pakistan? We can see that all Gulf Countries are open to India, but problems are increasing for Pakistanis, while the region is a major source of remittances for Pakistan? (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: The entire spectrum of bilateral relations between Pakistan and Kuwait was discussed during the meeting of the two Foreign Ministers.
The issue of visas also came under discussion and there was an agreement on the need for its early resolution. We hope the visas issue will be resolved soon.
The Foreign Minister of Kuwait especially appreciated the positive contribution of more than one hundred thousand expatriate Pakistanis towards the development of Kuwait.
Question: Without any stated reason, India has stopped pilgrims and students from IIOJK to travel to Pakistan, while many of these are enrolled in various universities of Pakistan. Your views on this, please? (Changez Khan Jadoon, Khyber News)
Answer: Our Mission in New Delhi is taking up the issue with the relevant Indian Authorities. We will share further details later.
Question: Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly been stating that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict, and Pakistan has also been claiming the credit for the entire 18-month peace process. We have seen that after the extended troika meeting in Moscow, Sohail Shaheen stated that not withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan by May 1 will be considered a violation. Do you think that all the effort put behind the peace process in these 18 months has been wasted? (Nasir Butt, Capital TV)
Answer: Pakistan has consistently maintained that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and negotiations are the only way forward. Today the entire international community has come around to Pakistan’s position.
The Afghan peace process made significant progress last year; particularly the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement was a major achievement. We believe that it is critical that the progress on the implementation of the Peace Agreement is maintained and further built upon in order to achieve its stated objectives of a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan.
All sides must work together for an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement.
As for the withdrawal of the U.S. troops, Pakistan supports orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as a precipitous withdrawal would create a vacuum for spoilers.
Question: With the worsening US China relations, due to developments in the Indo Pacific, is there any pressure on Pakistan to join either side? What is Pakistan’s view on the issue? (Muhammad Asad, Frontier Post)
Answer: Pakistan enjoys friendly and cooperative relations with both China and the US. China is Pakistan’s time tested and all-weather strategic cooperative partner. Pakistan also has longstanding comprehensive partnership with the US based on convergence of interests on a whole range of issues.
In the past Pakistan has played the role of a bridge between the US and China. Pakistan continues to pursue policies that promote cooperation, peace and stability in the region and beyond.
Last modified: March 19, 2021
Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.