Foreign Policy of a country is neither detached nor formulated in vacuum. It is inextricably linked to domestic conditions and prevailing external conditions. The internal social, political and economic conditions, the imperatives of geography, the burdens of history and current regional and global political and economic landscape – all have a bearing on what can possibly be done and how it can be done in the foreign policy arena.
• However, the goal of dynamic management of a country’s foreign policy must remain a constant, in any given situation, i.e., it must continue to aspire to meet people’s hopes and expectations.
• When I assumed the position of the Foreign Minister, a bit more than a year ago, Pakistan’s foreign policy was under serious stress; compounded significantly by domestic political turmoil and a dire economic outlook.
– Our commitment to CPEC was being questioned;
– Our relations with the US at an all-time low;
– Our traditional partnerships with the Gulf countries at a sub-optimal level;
– Uncertainty loomed over GSP+ and future trajectory of relations with Europe;
– We were in the FATF grey-list; and
– The trust deficit with IMF was at an all-time high.
• All this was in addition to persistent foreign policy challenges on our eastern and western borders, and a renewed threat of terrorism.
• Before we could settle, Pakistan was rocked by climate-induced catastrophic floods, requiring a robust international response to meet urgent domestic needs.
• I do not claim that we have encountered every challenge successfully. But I must share with you that today I feel we have achieved more than what I thought we would at the start of my tenure as the Foreign Minister.
• We have just celebrated the10th anniversary of the CPEC in Islamabad with Chinese Vice Premier in attendance. The help and assistance our government has received from China, politically and economically, gives me confidence about the health of Pakistan’s relationship with its Iron-brother.
• Three senior officials-level delegations from the US visited Pakistan in the second half of July 2023 – from the Treasury Department, NSC and one from private sector. The last one year saw consistently high level of engagement with the US government. I am glad that we now have a path with the US to rebuild and strengthen bilateral ties.
• What gives me satisfaction, however, is that the positive trajectory in our relations with both US and China have been pursued with clarity, underpinned by our consistent position that we do not want to be dragged into a global competition.
• Also, I draw particular satisfaction on how Pakistan maintained its principled position on the Ukraine conflict. Despite all the doubts and apprehensions in media, our voting pattern on related resolutions in multilateral fora remained unchanged.
• We invested significant effort in engaging both sides of the divide, and today, I believe there is a greater understanding of Pakistan’s position.
– This is clearly evidenced by our closer engagement with the US and the EU, burgeoning energy cooperation with Russia, and visits to Pakistan by the Foreign Ministers of Belarus and Ukraine.
• This broad, deep and meaningful engagement with all countries also helped building trust with the countries that sit on the IMF board. Its coming to fruition last month was a gratifying moment.
– It was owed in equal amount to the assistance given to Pakistan by China, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – a sign that our traditional partners are standing firmly with us. I am happy that we were able to contribute to this national effort led by the Prime Minister.
• Exiting the FATF grey-list was an important development for Pakistan. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar led this effort as Chairperson of the National FATF Coordination Committee
– In this regard, years of technical work and progress by all national stakeholders needed to be recognized internationally. We were able to project our progress successfully, and have it duly recognized by the FATF,thwarting diplomatically the designs of a major detractor.
– Instead of celebrating this success, we remained focused on the job. We also led a legislative process to ensure that our gains in FATF are consolidated.
• Engaging Europe and UK constructively was a priority for us. Countless meetings, in bilateral visits to and from Europe, as well as on the sidelines of multilateral meetings have reinvigorated our ties.
– We seek from these countries better access for our goods, visa facilitation especially for students, work opportunities for our skilled people and cooperation in education, science and technology.
– We draw particular satisfaction from the recently initiated Migration & Mobility Dialogue with the EU, which has great potential for opening doors for Pakistanis seeking employment abroad.
– Continuation of GSP+ facility is another positive development.
– There is immense potential in our constructive partnership with this region. We believe we have set the tone and corrected the course. Successive governments need to continue working in the same direction.
• On Afghanistan, our approach has been quite clear and forthwith.
– We will do everything we can for our brethren – the Afghan people.
– We have maintained a robust practical engagement with the Afghan Interim government – working on areas such as security, border control and markets, commerce, health, education, transit trade and almost every facet of bilateral cooperation.
– Pakistan’s peace and security are however non-negotiable. My first responsibility is to my people and my country.
– We continue to engage pro-actively and constructively at every possible regional and international format aimed at promoting peace, security and stability of Afghanistan. Once again, I want to emphasize sky is the limit to the opportunities we can create. But terrorism must be countered.
• Throughout this feverish and extensive diplomatic push, we never compromised on the core tenet of our foreign policy – Kashmir; Even as I participated in the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meet in Goa this year, becoming the voice of the oppressed Kashmiris of the Indian Occupied Kashmir was my foremost priority. The same spirit was evident in:
– our statements at the General Assembly last year and other multilateral forums;
– the resolutions of the OIC Summit;
– the visit of the Secretary General of the OIC to Azad Kashmir; and
– the dissemination of dossiers to the international community on continued Indian brutality on Muslims of the IIOJK.
• As a Foreign Minister of an Islamic Republic, and also as the last chairman of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, I take pride in taking the lead on countering Islamophobia, and denouncing acts of blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) or nefarious acts of desecration of our Holy Book.
– As the Chair of the OIC Group at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, we tabled and got successfully adopted the resolution on “Countering Religious Hatred Constituting Incitement to Discrimination, Hostility or Violence,”
• I have only mentioned some key areas of our policy. I am glad that while difficult issues tend to get urgent attention, our focus on them did not come at the cost of our multifaceted ties with some of our most important partners – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, Iran, Qatar and Azerbaijan OR at the cost of our multifaceted ties with the countries in Africa, South-East Asia, Latin America or the Far East. In fact, we were able to add to these relationships substantively.
• Leadership positions in multilateral processes and forums are coveted globally. Because they often reflect prestige, respect and the health of a country’s diplomacy. In addition to successfully completing our leadership of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, last year, Pakistan was elected:
– as the Chair of the Group of 77 and China – the leading voice of the Global South in the international discourse on development issues;
– United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC);
– UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (CNGOs);
– UN Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC);
– Executive Council of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and
– Pakistan also successfully contested the election for the post of Assistant Secretary General for Science and Technology in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – a reflection of Pakistan’s standing in the Islamic world.
• Since I assumed Office I worked to ensure that we were constantly evolving and improving to stay ahead in these times of multi-dimensional transition. I realized that reforms within the Ministry were long overdue and inevitable.
• Therefore, under the overall vision of the Change Management Initiative, we succeeded in implementing reform across diverse work streams and thematic frameworks of the Ministry. The end state vision was to bring a paradigm shift in the way we conduct our business, and to transform this Ministry into a modern institution that worked like a well-oiled machine, where antiquated procedures and internal inefficiencies were relics of the past.
• In total, we implemented 51 reform initiatives including through automation and digitalization of functions pertaining to human resources, administration and finance. As well as in areas of communication and security, logistics, career development and mobility framework, knowledge management, public diplomacy, consular and protocol services, and last but not the least, training facilities at the Foreign Service Academy.
• At my first interaction with my officers when I took over this office in April last year and spoke to them at a town hall meeting, I committed to support them in meeting their longstanding demands relating to harmonization of their pay and allowances and cadre strength. I am happy to report that we delivered on all those commitments successfully.
• Also, given the centrality of MOFA’s role in managing intergovernmental relations, we made sure that that Ministry had a seat on the table on the deliberative forums discussing issues of economy, trade and foreign investment including more recently at the SIFC and reconstituted board of the BOI.
• To ensure effective follow-up and coordination for implementation of the action points that emerged from my interactions during my official travels abroad, we developed an ‘Action Matrix’, which contains the inventory of Pakistan’s commitments to our bilateral and multilateral partners, organized thematically according to the tasks falling under the responsibility of respective Ministries, Provincial Governments, and Federal Agencies.
• I have shared the compendium of the Action Matrix with the Prime Minister. This comprehensive document will serve as an easy reference and a useful guide to track the status of implementation of Pakistan’s pledges, progress, and lack thereof. This will also act as a valuable resource particularly for our successors in ensuring business continuity for promotion of Pakistan’s cooperation and partnerships with the international community and most importantly, will help restore confidence of our foreign investors and development partners globally.
• Moreover, under the Change Management Initiative, we are also implementing long overdue reforms to expand the mandate and scope of our existing camp offices in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta to cater to their enhanced role for providing institutional, substantive, procedural and consular advice to the provincial governments. This is important, especially in the wake of the 18th Amendment where several federal subjects, including international development cooperation, have been devolved to the provincial governments.
• We are re-designating the existing camp offices as Foreign Affairs Offices (FAOs) with the offices in Karachi and Lahore to be managed by a senior officer who would have broader mandate and responsibilities to consul and advise the provincial governments in all aspects of their relations with foreign governments and international organizations in the political, economic and administrative fields.
• Simultaneously, we are extending consular services to the general public, the honorable Prime Minister has been pleased to approve, last week, the establishment of the Ministry’s new liaison offices in Gwadar, Sukkur, Jhelum, Gilgit Baltistan, Multan and Muzaffarabad. A committee has been established to devise detailed modalities to operationalize the newly established liaison offices in these cities at the earliest possible. This will ensure service delivery at the door step for the people we serve.
• I hope I can say without any fear of contradiction that I am leaving a happier, more contented Foreign Service than the one I found in April 2022.
• Before I conclude, I wish to share with you three fundamental approaches that underpinned my term as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan for the past year or so:
(i) Professionalism over Populism:
– with a firm belief that Pakistan and its people will benefit from a dispassionate and mature foreign policy.
– Facing challenges, we remained firm; and humble when blessed with success.
– In diplomacy, the real gold seldom glitters. And history judges best.
(ii) Togetherness over Egoism:
– with full confidence that best decisions and policy choices come as a result of collective wisdom of Pakistan’s leadership, its Foreign Office professionals and all relevant stakeholders.
– This required us, the Ministers, to not direct, but be directed by the logic put before us.
– Thus every choice that we made, or a policy we worked on, was a result of a consultative process.
(iii) Broad engagement over zero-sum games:
– with a hope that sincere engagement with all countries, clear articulation of Pakistan’s policy and expectations, and earnest desire to build cooperation with all countries will benefit Pakistan in the long run.
– This required sacrificing short-term boosts that can result from partisanship and zero-sum games. We clearly prioritized long-term and stable gains in the foreign policy arena, even if their magnitude was not optimal in current terms.
• I believe three of our major successes resulted from these approaches:
– The effusive international response to the 2022 floods, which, we also galvanized as Chair of the G-77 towards creation of a loss & damage fund by COP-29;
– FATF de-listing; and,
– Renewal of the IMF plan
I thank you.
Last modified: August 9, 2023
Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.