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His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan,
Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates,

Excellencies Foreign Ministers and Heads of Delegations,

His Excellency Mr. Abdur Rehman bin Hamad Al-Attiya,
Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council

It is indeed a very special privilege and honour for me personally and for members of my Delegation to be present today in this beautiful city to launch the Pakistan-GCC Strategic Dialogue Process.

It is an auspicious occasion and a historic moment. Pakistan and the Member States of the GCC enjoy age-old ties.

The multiple bonds of shared faith, culture, traditions as well as the instinctive sense of very special affinity, that has always existed between our respective peoples, forms the core foundation for this historic enterprise.

It also promises realization of the immense potential of mutually-beneficial partnership between the GCC and Pakistan in multiple domains.

Let me at the outset state that the Pakistan-GCC relations transcend the usual considerations that define inter-state relations. The sense of solidarity and oneness is distinctly unique.

The enterprise that we launch in terms of establishing the institutional link between Pakistan and the GCC is another giant step propelled by a sense of shared destiny.

The world around us, indeed the global landscape, is undergoing a profound transformation. Consequently, our region is also being impacted. The events of the past few weeks in North Africa and the Middle East warrant close attention and reflection.

It is said that in nature, only change is constant. However, flux in the geo-political and geo-economic sense, if divorced from the shared ideals of humanity, could have long-term consequences detrimental to global peace, security and prosperity.

Pakistan continues to follow these developments at the global and regional planes with close attention. We believe that stability and peace must remain our watch-words.

Unity, territorial integrity and political independence of sovereign states must be respected. Non-interference and non-intervention must remain the guiding principles.

This Strategic Dialogue presents us with an invaluable opportunity to exchange views; benefit from each other’s perspective; coordinate positions; and, more importantly, when and wherever required, to concert efforts in the interest of protecting the interests of the Islamic and Arab Ummah, coherently, comprehensively and effectively.

I bring to you the greetings from the people of Pakistan; warm salutations from our leadership to the leadership of the States members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. I am here also to reaffirm that further strengthening of Pakistan-GCC relations has been and will remain a cardinal principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

The sense of common destiny impels us to take the requisite steps and march forward confidently towards forging a comprehensive partnership to safeguard and promote our shared interests.

In the Arab/Islamic fraternity, we have always viewed each other’s strength as our collective strength.

We are indeed proud of our modest contribution to the promotion of our common causes at all forums and at the global planes.

We are proud of the robust cooperative partnership that we have forged with states members of the GCC in the realms of security, defence, counter-terrorism as well as in the fields as diverse as culture, education, science & technology, economy and trade.

I believe that the Pakistan-GCC institutional relationship will provide a new impetus towards optimizing and realizing the tremendous potential that our geographic proximity, solidarity and the economic complementarity confer.

Of course, the mutual goodwill and love and affection between our peoples and the very special relations that the leadership of the GCC has always shown towards Pakistan, will enable us to build a comprehensive strategic partnership and to take it to new heights.

Let me also share with you our vision for the future. Major strategic markers, that we must set for ourselves is to elevate the Pakistan-GCC Strategic Dialogue Process and, more importantly, the comprehensive partnership to the Summit level.

In the domains of economy and trade, we wish to forge a mutually-beneficial partnership. We believe that by pooling our respective strengths, we should be able to forge win-win scenarios. The defining factor will be the corporate and private sector, supported, assisted and facilitated by the governments.

Another major marker that we wish to set today is the early finalization of the Pakistan-GCC Free Trade Agreement. In this context, we would be happy to host meetings in Islamabad. We should set a definitive timeline to conclude the negotiations and to sign the FTA within this year.

Pakistan is an emerging market of some 200 million. We have been blessed by Almighty Allah with tremendous resources – both human and natural wealth. Primarily an agricultural economy with abundant land, we are endeavouring to become the food-basket in our region.

There are immense prospects of mutually-beneficial cooperation ranging from agriculture, livestock, food processing to industry, high technology and in the minerals and energy sectors that we should endeavour to realize.

Enhancing cooperation in the financial and banking sectors and capital markets is essential. We should also benefit from each other’s experiences and successes in various fields and disciplines.

In Pakistan, we have several institutions of excellence and specialized disciplines, including high technology, information technology, business studies and the health sciences.

Educational and academic links between the academia would be useful not only to adding more content and substance to the relations but also making this a people-centred enterprise.

Let us begin to reflect together on how at the governmental level, the requisite frameworks that facilitate and promote the Pakistan-GCC economic and trade partnership could be established.

We also need to reflect on modalities, mechanisms and structures for realizing the dividends of our cooperation.

In short, the challenge is to work out ways and means, whereby our economic and trade relations become commensurate with our excellent political relations. We should also reflect together as to how best we can create incentive regimes to promote this.

Pakistan, as you know, has faced many challenges over the previous six decades. Time and again, the proud and resilient Pakistani nation has proved itself equal to the task.

We have faced natural calamities and have been severely impacted from the turbulence in our immediate neighbourhood, especially Afghanistan.

At times, we have carried the burden of the world alone sustained by conviction in the noble values of our pristine religion Islam and the universal values of humanity, norms and principles that are sacrosanct.

On all these occasions, we have received unstinted support from our brothers and sisters in the Arab and Islamic world. Indeed, we are most grateful for all this and, in particular, for the support and assistance that we received from the leadership, the governments and the people of the Gulf Cooperation Council during the unprecedented floods last years.

I believe that Pakistan-GCC cooperation should also be visible at the global plane. I would suggest that on all important issues of interest and concern, we consult and cooperate at the multilateral forums.

Our cooperation could be a critical precursor in upholding and safeguarding not only the respective national interests but also all the just causes of the Islamic world.

To make this all happen, we will have to adopt a pragmatic approach. This Strategic Dialogue Process offers us this opportunity.

I am, therefore, specially delighted to be in a position today to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on establishing the Pakistan-GCC Strategic Dialogue.

May I express our gratitude to His Excellency the Secretary General of the GCC for his personal interest, attention and support.

I am also indebted to His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the UAE for hosting this important meeting in Abu Dhabi and for the generous hospitality, consideration and courtesies that were shown to me and members of my delegation.

I must avail myself of this opportunity to convey to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates our deep gratitude and thanks for his personal attention to promote UAE-Pakistan relations.

The people of Pakistan also remember, with tremendous respect and gratitude, the eminent contribution made by His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan to the welfare of our people.

I would also like to express our profound gratitude and appreciation to Khadim-ul-Harmain Sharifain, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their solidarity and support for Pakistan. We hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the highest esteem.

I wish our brothers and partners in the GCC every success.

Thank you.

08 March, 2011

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