Honorable Air Vice Marshal Faaiz Amir (Retd), HI(M), S Bt,
Air University Islamabad,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great privilege for me to be at this august forum today to speak about “Pakistan’s Foreign Policy”. I am delighted to be amongst so many bright, intellectually curious, and dynamic people – certain to ensure a rigorous and thought-provoking discourse. I am particularly grateful to Air Marshal Faaiz Amir for giving me the opportunity for this valuable interaction.

Our topic of discussion, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, has acquired special significance in view of major shifts taking place in the regional and global order. It is often asked as to how do we promote and protect our vital national interests in the realm of diplomacy, international politics, inter-state relations, in this rapidly changing milieu. The short answer is: very prudently.

Foreign-policy making process is always complex as well as elaborate. It requires extensive consultations with key stakeholders. All elements of national power such as economic strength, social cohesion, institutional balance, military capabilities, network of allies, ideological orientation- to name a few- contribute to formulation and evolution of foreign policy. The implementation phase is equally laborious, and painstaking. Quintessentially, we must always remember, foreign policy is not an event, but a process. It is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are living in a Hobbesian world, a world marked by anarchy, change, and constant flux in the political and strategic permutations. Unilateralism, nationalism, xenophobia, and populism are on the rise and creating uncertainties not witnessed on the global scene for decades.

The multilateral arrangements built after the Second World War seem to be under assault by powerful forces. Technology has transformed the way we humans had been living for millennia. The rate and speed of change is the constant that we have to contend with all the time.

The center of gravity of global economic power is shifting from the West to the East. Some pundits have been arguing that we are at a stage of history where we will have to inexorably face “Thucydides Trap”, i.e. conflict between a rising power and an established power is inevitable. Major power rivalries, regional tensions, protracted unresolved disputes and hegemonic ambitions illustrate the state of play in our own region. On the positive side, ours is also a region with tremendous potential for development and regional connectivity.

It is in such a daunting environment that Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities are defined, and effective solution scrafted,to deal with the continuing challenges while taking benefit of emerging opportunities. Against this backdrop, let me share some key foreign policy areas where we are actively pursuing our objectives shaped by our security and development imperatives.

The over-arching framework for our foreign policy continues to be encapsulated by the Quaid’s dictum of “peace within, peace without.”

In its operationalization, we have the domestic priorities of people- centered economic development and creation of a welfare state. In its external dimension, “peaceful neighborhood” remains the defining construct.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To our East, as you are aware, Pakistan’s relationship with India has remained challenging as ever. On 5 August 2019, India sought to further consolidate its illegal and immoral occupation of IOJ&K in violation of numerous UNSC resolutions and international law. India’s intention is to alter the internationally-recognized disputed status of occupied J&K and to change its demographic structure and identity.

The inhuman lockdown of 8 million people continuing for over 70 days is imposing unspeakable sufferings on the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Imran Khan made a strong case at the UN General Assembly that the curfew in IOJ&K must be immediately lifted and the Kashmiris given the right to self-determination. I have been personally engaged with Foreign Ministers and international dignitaries from across the world and sensitizing them about the grave tragedy unfolding in IOJ&K. We have also raised international awareness about the prospect of false flag operation and the grave risks posed to peace and security by India’s unilateral actions.

The desperate attempt by India to portray a situation of “normalcy” in IOJ&K is in sharp contrast to reports of torture and detention by the international media. They are indicative of a reprehensible Indian design to spin an alternative reality to mislead the world. Similarly reprehensible is the fiction being advanced by Indian authorities regarding restoration of mobile phone service in IOJ&K.

We will continue to stand by Kashmiris in their just struggle for realization of the right to self-determination. We, and the Kashmiris, remain grateful to all those governments, international and regional human rights organizations, civil society members, and the international media who have raised their voice against India’s illegal and unilateral actions and supported the resolution of Kashmir dispute according to the UNSC resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

India is also pursuing a massive build-up of its nuclear and conventional military forces and acquiring destabilizing capabilities. These include nuclearization of Indian Ocean and deployment of anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs); development and testing of debris-generating Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapons; and a constant increase in the readiness, sophistication and diversification of all types of delivery systems and platforms.

This country resorts to war-mongering and issues nuclear threats including for short term domestic electoral gains. It has repeatedly signaled changes to its declaratory nuclear posture while flirting with pre-emptive and counterforce tendencies. This is in addition to its already existing aggressive military doctrines that envisage war-fighting below the perceived nuclear threshold. It refuses to bilaterally engage dialogue and rejects proposals aimed at risk reduction, confidence-building and nuclear and missile restraint. These hegemonic pretensions, coupled with a history of aggression against its neighbours, present a clear and present danger to regional stability, and to Pakistan’s security.

Pakistan desires peace and strategic stability in order to focus on its socio-economic development agenda. Our conduct continues to be defined by restraint and responsibility, and the avoidance of an arms race. Pakistan, however, cannot remain oblivious to the evolving security dynamics in its immediate neighbourhood.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Turmoil and protracted war in Afghanistan has immeasurably affected Pakistan and its society. Pakistan maintained for a long time that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. We are gratified that our position is vindicated and there is, today, an across-the-board agreement in favour of a political settlement. Pakistan is fully supporting peace and reconciliation, to be achieved through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. We have supported all rounds of Afghan peace talks in Doha and Abu Dhabi. We hope that the US-Taliban talks recommence and lead to intra-Afghan negotiations.

China, Afghanistan and Pakistan convened the third Trilateral Foreign Minister’s Dialogue on 7th September. We welcomed the agreements reached in the dialogue and hope that deeper cooperation is forged in matters of development and connectivity with Afghanistan.

A senior Taliban delegation visited Pakistan recently and we urged them to work for resumption of talks with the U.S., and undertake intra-Afghan negotiations. We were encouraged by their response.

In essence, Pakistan remains committed to supporting all efforts aimed at having an Afghanistan–at peace with itself, and at peace with its neighbors. We will continue to support the reconciliation process, extend development assistance, and help create conditions in which more than 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan can go back to their homeland in dignity and honor.

Ladies and Gentlemen, China remains our closest friend and a steadfast partner. Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership is an anchor for peace and stability in the region. This relationship has expanded and diversified a great deal in past few years and we will continue to reinforce our ties to protect and promote our strategic, economic, trade, people-to-people and investment interests.

Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China from 8-9 October. It was Prime Minister’s third visit within a span of a year. The evolving geopolitical situation requires frequent leadership level interactions. The outcome document of the Prime Minister’s visit demonstrated the convergence of views between the two strategic partners across the whole range of regional and international issues.

CPEC is the cornerstone of Pakistan’s development agenda and expeditious completion of CPEC projects is a high priority of our government. We are determined to execute CPEC projects and, in our recent visit to China, have proposed more projects for Chinese investment that can rejuvenate and consolidate our economy.

Let me also acknowledge here that we are extremely grateful to China for resolutely supporting us at the UN in our struggle to seek justice for the Kashmiris under illegal Indian occupation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan is committed to have a broad-based, long-term, and enduring partnership with the US. Prime Minister Imran Khan has twice met President Trump and taken bilateral engagement to a level and quality not witnessed in recent years. The broad agenda from security to trade to investments to energy to education to people-to-people exchanges illustrates the vast benefits we can accrue by working together.

Our endeavor is to cast this relationship on the principles of mutual respect, mutual interest and mutual benefit. We have worked assiduously to minimize the divergences and we continue to accentuate the convergences. We hope that the US and Pakistan work constructively in advancing the shared goals of peace, stability and prosperity in our region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan has achieved significant success in fighting terrorism at a staggering human and financial cost. Terrorist networks have been disrupted and their infrastructure degraded. As a result, the prospects for economic development and growth have magnified. Many countries are approaching us to explore investment opportunities in Pakistan. Tourism industry has witnessed a surge in recent months. We are confident that, going forward, Pakistan will become an attractive destination for international investors and tourists.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our ties with Europe are of strategic significance. As the EU and the UK grapple with the challenge of ‘Brexit’, we hope Pakistan’s multifaceted ties with its European partners will continue to expand in quantum and substance. Our relationship with EU will remain instrumental in our economic growth process and in our quest for a peaceful, stable and prosperous region and the world.

Let me take this opportunity to say that I was delighted to receive the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their visit to Pakistan. The royal couple is on a five-day tour to Pakistan and will discover in this period the rich sights and sounds of Pakistan. Through this powerful lens, we are sure,the world will get to see a country of remarkable geographical, cultural and linguistic diversity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For Pakistan, the Middle East is an important strategic, economic, security and cultural partner, besides being our primary civilizational fountain-head. We have close affinities and great affection for all the countries of the region.

Some five million Pakistanis find employment there, sending back billions of dollars worth of remittances that further consolidate our economy.

The Middle East is important from the perspective of ensuring Pakistan’s energy security. War in the region could have devastating consequences for the entire world, as also for Pakistan’s economy. We are, therefore, doing everything within our means to help lower tensions and ensure preservation of regional peace and security.

As part of these facilitation efforts, Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Iran and Saudi Arabia to defuse tensions and promote peace and stability in the region. I can tell you that we are encouraged by the initial consultations as there is already discernible de-escalation. We hope there will be willingness to employ political and diplomatic means to resolve differences and disputes. We would all be winners if these efforts are fruitful and we have a region focused on cooperation, rather than confrontation.

Pakistan’s engagement with Africa and Latin America is also transforming in qualitative terms. The richness that these important regions of the world offer in economic and cultural terms is phenomenal. Pakistan is committed to fully realizing the vast potential that our key relationships hold there.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, let me restate that Pakistan, in pursuit of its foreign policy objectives, is playing a pivotal role in promoting peace, security and stability in the region and beyond. We believe there is enormous potential to grow and, with progressive, pragmatic and liberal policies, we can infuse economic dynamism internally in Pakistan and across the region.

We do not see our quest for security as a zero-sum game. Rather, we believe in win-win outcomes, maximizing the dividends for all. We hope our constructive approach will be reciprocated by others and there will be a new momentum for peace, progress and prosperity.

Thank you.

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