Press Releases|

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a privilege to join this distinguished audience in welcoming Mr. Carl Bildt a politician, diplomat, thinker and of course, a distinguished statesman. As diplomats, intellectuals and opinion leaders try to make sense of the complex global situation, they certainly look to the wisdom of statesmen such as Mr. Bildt.

Ladies and gentlemen,

While at the global level the situation is characterized by flux, unpredictability and uncertainty, the regional environment in our part of the world is even more volatile. Turmoil in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen & Afghanistan is only the most obvious manifestation of societal implosions, arising out of a desire to engage in political engineering in traditional and tribal societies. Over the past several decades, Pakistan’s neighborhood has been marked, inter alia, by the super-power rivalry, foreign interventions, intra-regional conflict, unresolved political and territorial disputes, and a rising tide of extremism and terrorism.

The crumbling of the old order in West Asia, unending instability in Afghanistan, the rise of China, the massive acquisition of sophisticated weapons systems by India, migration, refugee flows, rising inequality at the global level, and climate change etc., present a complicated operational milieu for Pakistan’s foreign policy.

We have to confront this difficult foreign policy context at a time of domestic consolidation, strengthening democracy and evolving a new balance between the institutions of the state.

It is in this strategic context that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif articulated his vision of “peace for development”, when he assumed office in June 2013. In fact, he has made unstinted efforts to create a peaceful external environment, so that the core national objective of domestic consolidation is robustly advanced.

These two elements of institutionalization of democracy and reach-out to neighbors have been Pakistan’s major policy pivot, appreciation of which is not as visible, as it could have been.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Pakistan has suffered grievously from conflict and instability in Afghanistan, for decades now. Unless this cycle is decisively reversed, we would continue to bear the brunt. Uncertainty would not only further complicate the challenges on our borders, but also result in refugee influx, enhanced narcotics trafficking, and proliferation of arms. At the same time, we are mindful of the strong desire in the US to bring the “long war” in Afghanistan to a “responsible end.” We support this objective. We also agree that Afghanistan should not become a safe haven for terrorists again.

But we also believe that it is in our common interest to avoid a repeat of the 1990s. There are real concerns that instability in Afghanistan resulting from a precipitate U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal could increase cross-border activity, flow of arms and narcotics, and influx of refugees into Pakistan. Therefore, we believe, neither the abandonment of Afghanistan, nor interference in its affairs, is the answer. Mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity constitutes the core principle of our own policy towards Afghanistan.

It is in this context, that Pakistan facilitated the reconciliation process between Taliban and the Afghan government, under the rubric of the Quadrilateral process. Despite provocations, including the latest US drone attack that killed the Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor, Pakistan has exercised restraint. Yet, it is legitimate to ask whether reiterating commitment to the recon process on the 18th May and decapitating the Taliban leader three days later, through an illegal instrument, would promote the cause of peace in Afghanistan?

We will however continue to persist with our efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan. We also remain committed to working together with Afghan authorities to eliminate terrorism, terrorist safe havens from both sides of the border, with effective operational coordination.

We have already offered our full cooperation to the Afghan government to work with us to better manage the border, engage in frequent high level communications, and real time exchange of intelligence, to address the movement and activities of terrorists.

Secondly, we would like to harness the full potential of economic cooperation and regional connectivity between our two countries. Just to give you a quick synopsis, Pakistan is now providing $500 million of bilateral assistance to Afghanistan which includes funds for development of infrastructure in education and health, as well road network. Our bilateral trade has jumped from meager $300 million to around $2.5 billion in the last three years and we seek to take it to US$5 billion. Besides, we are also working on big energy projects, such as CASA 1000 and TAPI, which will come through Afghanistan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Here I would like to briefly touch upon an important aspect of Pakistan’s vision of regional connectivity which we hope will lay the foundations of peace and prosperity in the region. The first major step in this direction is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. We believe that this mega concept will serve as a “game-changer”, in ushering in a new era of peace, cooperation and development in the region and beyond. This sets in with the larger efforts to promote connectivity and economic integration in the larger Eurasian region. Today as technology has freed our potential and fired our imagination, the old dream of Eurasian integration is becoming a reality. Road and rail links connecting one end of Eurasia in Vladivostok and Tianjin to Rotterdam and Hamburg on the other end, are set to unleash massive economic development and boost regional trade and commerce. Similarly, we look forward to a day in the not too distant future, when communication links will also connect Astana with Gwadar. Ladies and Gentlemen, Coming towards our eastern neighbour, it is no secret that relations with India have remained an important and sensitive area in our foreign policy. It is unfortunate that mutual suspicion and wariness of each other’s intentions have forced both countries to divert precious resources from socio-economic development, to procurement and development of weapons and arms. More than six decades of mistrust, four wars and un-resolved disputes have made complete normalization of relations a difficult and complex task.

But for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, seeking peace with India for the good of our two peoples is a life-long commitment. We seek a peaceful relationship with India, but one based on mutual respect for each other’s concerns and interests.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have witnessed a dramatic improvement in the security situation of Pakistan after the successful counter-terrorism operations. International observers have noted the significant reduction of terrorist incidents in the last one year. This, in turn, has helped the economy to pick up, resulting in Pakistan’s up-gradation by Moody’s and Standard and Poor.

If we succeed in moving forward with the Afghan reconciliation process, as well as with the comprehensive dialogue process with India, I am confident that our region is going to reap the benefit from further regional connectivity, mutual trade and greater mutual inter-dependence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As all states try to navigate a tough global environment, we need to understand that for peace and stability, international security should be founded on cooperation and concord. The impulse for the accumulation and brandishing of power to create asymmetrical security equations, regionally or globally, is intrinsically disruptive to peace and has been rejected repeatedly. Only that security structure will endure and engender peace which flows from the UN Charter, adheres to its principles, is consistent with its objectives and is respectful of its decisions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I conclude, let me briefly touch upon the migration and refugee crisis in Europe.

We are indeed cognizant of the enormous challenges posed by the large influx of irregular migrants and refugees in Europe. Pakistan itself has been host to more than three million refugees for past many decades and can well appreciate the gravity of the situation being faced by several countries in Europe.

We are of the view that an integrated approach to migration that encompasses in its fold political, security and socio-economic aspects of the issue is needed to effectively address this challenge. Concomitantly, it is sine qua non that the root causes of conflicts be addressed in the countries from where people are fleeing, for protection of their lives.

On our part, the Government is determined to curb human trafficking as enshrined in country’s Penal Laws. To ward off illegal immigration, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has strengthened the legal regime in dealing with the complex issue of illegal migration.

However, extremist mindsets, xenophobia are being manifested even in well-established democracies. This is both sad and alarming. In fact, there should be no anti-Islam bias in formulation of migration policies and Islamophobic sentiments are contained from making inroads into the European societies.

I thank you all.

Close Search Window