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Speaking at the 9th Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers’ meeting (ASEM) in Hanoi, Vietnam, Foreign Secretary Salman Bahsir has emphasized security, economic development, and trans-regional development cooperation as Pakistan’s core priorities.

While addressing the ASEM Ministerial session, the Foreign Secretary underlined that the democratic government in Pakistan was making all out efforts to promote peace, stability and economic development. Pakistan was engaged in a resolute national effort to meet all challenges, including the fight against militancy, and would succeed with the full support of the people of Pakistan.

The Foreign Secretary stressed that the realization of Pakistan’s development goals was contingent upon a peaceful regional environment. In this context, he emphasized that Pakistan was committed to working constructively with all its neighbors. He added that Pakistan would deepen cooperation with partners in Asia and Europe with a view to building a future of hope.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir underlined that stabilizing Afghanistan and the adjoining region was a pressing priority for Pakistan. To promote this goal, Pakistan was closely associated with several ongoing regional and trilateral frameworks for peace and trans-regional development cooperation. President Asif Ali Zardari had just returned from a highly successful trilateral summit in Tehran of the leaders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Earlier, President Zardari had participated in the trilateral summit in Washington with President Obama and President Karzai. Pakistan was also involved in the trilateral process initiated with Turkey. We were part of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) process as well and looking forward to participation in the SCO Summit in Russia in June 2009. Pakistan believed that the real way forward was cooperation at the sub-regional, regional and inter-continental planes.

In this context, the Foreign Secretary underlined the importance that Pakistan attached to its membership of ASEM and its commitment to broadening horizons of cooperation with partners from the East and the West. He emphasized that the first Pakistan-EU Summit being held on Brussels on 17 June was of pivotal importance.

Speaking on the global financial crisis, Foreign Secretary Salman Bahsir noted that the global economy had undergone profound structural changes. In our view, globalization with a human face should be advanced by intra-regional and inter-regional cooperation. The economic fundamentals for Asia were good. We were happy to note that China, a major economic powerhouse, was doing well. The Chinese leadership deserved full credit for instilling hope and confidence and taking initiatives that will sustain growth at home, in our region, and the world. The Chinese experience showed that pursuing people-centered development, promoting harmony, and supervised marketization could yield positive results.

The Foreign Secretary added that it was essential to devise actions and policy prescriptions that went beyond the governments. The critical role that the corporate world could play in generating business and stimulating economic activity needed to be fully explored and developed. Pakistan was also following with interest the Chiang Mai Initiative and wished to develop close links with the ASEAN and Asia-wide processes for reinforcing partnerships for common prosperity and development.

Participating in the “Dialogue on Regional and International Developments,” Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir reiterated the importance of regional stability and Pakistan’s commitment to work with international partners to help stabilize Afghanistan. He said Pakistan supported the Italian initiative for a conference on Afghanistan under its Presidency of the G-8.

The Foreign Secretary highlighted that there was a qualitative difference between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Essentially, Pakistan was suffering for decades from the negative fall-out of the conflict and instability in Afghanistan. Pakistan had been a victim of terrorism and had rendered enormous sacrifices in fighting terrorism. It was essential for the international community to effectively address and find durable solutions to the issues of narcotics and weapons and money flows in Afghanistan and the region, which continued to fuel terrorism and instability. Pakistan could not be blamed for any failure to resolve these issues in Afghanistan. Equally serious issue was any attempt to export Afghanistan’s problems to the neighboring countries. The Foreign Secretary stressed that Pakistan was an able and willing partner of the international community and would continue to play its rightful role in promoting stability.

Taking part in the discussion, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi underlined that Pakistan and Afghanistan were two different countries. Pakistan had rendered enormous sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. China fully supported efforts by Pakistan for the stability of Afghanistan. The people of Pakistan had paid a heavy price and deserved the support of the international community. The Chinese Foreign Minister emphasized that “Pakistan’s sacrifices should be acknowledged” adding emphatically that “China will do its best to support Pakistan.”

In his comments during the discussion on Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir underscored that after a decades-long struggle the Sri Lankans had achieved success in the campaign against terrorism. Pakistan had every confidence in the ability of the government and people of Sri Lanka to create conditions for peace, stability and prosperity in the country. In case Sri Lanka required humanitarian assistance, it should be provided by the international community.

On North Korea, the Foreign Secretary reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support for efforts to foster peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and keep it free of nuclear weapons. He described the latest nuclear test by DPRK as an unfortunate development and a matter of serious concern. He called for a peaceful solution of the nuclear issue, including through the resumption of the six-party talks.

The Foreign Secretary also welcomed the decision in principle to associate Australia and the Russian Federation with the ASEM process, noting that Pakistan fully supported these countries’ bid as it recognized their potential to make a positive contribution.

The Foreign Secretary announced that Pakistan would be hosting an experts-level seminar on ‘Eurasian land-bridge’ later this year. This was consistent with Pakistan’s commitment to promote positive processes in the Asian heart-land aimed at enhancing physical connectivity for common prosperity.

Earlier, the launching ceremony of the stockpile phase of the ASEM Initiative for the Rapid Containment of Pandemic Influenza was held with the Japanese Foreign Minister in the lead. Pakistan participated in the ceremony as a co-sponsor of the initiative.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is leading the Pakistan delegation at the ASEM meeting being held in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. The theme for the ASEM meeting is: “Forging a Closer Asia-Europe Partnership to Address the Financial and Economic Crisis and other Global Challenges.” ASEM consists of 45-members – including the 27 EU countries, 10 ASEAN countries, and other key regional countries such as China, Japan and South Korea. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had participated in the 7th ASEM Summit held in Beijing in 2008.

26 May 2009

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