Mr. Director General,
Excellency High Commissioner of Kenya,
At the outset, I would like to recognize the presence of so many luminaries here tonight. And I particularly welcome Ambassador Inam ul Haq sahib, a mentor from whose wisdom I personally continue to benefit enormously.
I am delighted to be here at the inaugural ceremony of the Center for Middle East and Africa at the ISSI. I commend the Director General of the Institute, former Foreign Secretary Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry, who is a professional par excellence and a dynamic force behind many key initiatives at the ISSI and beyond.
The Middle East is one of the most critical areas in the world today. A bridge between the East and the West, it is also a cradle of all monotheistic religions; and, most importantly, of Islam. Its strategic significance stems from its role as a major energy supplier. Developments here have global repercussions.
Pakistan, with its multiple historic affinities, shared faith and culture, people-to-people linkages, and strong strategic and defence ties with nearly all countries of the region has direct and high stakes in the region and its stability.
There are no issues on which Pakistan has not stood shoulder-to-shoulder with its brotherly Muslim countries in the Middle East. And it has received reciprocal support, on Kashmir, in matters of the economy and political support, when needed. This exceptional partnership has been the bedrock of Islamic solidarity in modern times.
The economic dimension of our mutually beneficial relationship is also telling. The Middle East is home to one of the largest concentrations of Pakistani diaspora in the world. These Pakistanis continue to play a significant role in the growth and development of Middle Eastern economy and the progress and prosperity of their own country. The region is an important destination for Pakistani exports, and a significant source of FDI, energy supplies and remittances. Our friends in the Middle East are also among our closest collaborators in the defence sector.
In short, Pakistan’s future prospects are closely tied with those of the Middle East. These prospects are impacted by the far-reaching transformations sweeping across the region, and the world. A matter that demands in-depth research and enhanced understanding.
Africa, similarly, is a region, where Pakistan’s past, present and future converge. Both Pakistan and Africa successfully fought for freedom from colonization and are now grappling with multiple development challenges. This makes for a natural meeting of the minds and working in unison.
Like the Middle East, we have a strong tradition of mutual support, ranging from rendering assistance to rid the colonial yoke, to capacity building of State institutions, to peace-keeping and peace-building.
And this year, we have embarked upon a new journey of friendship with our African partners to deepen the existing economic, political and cultural bonds in the shape of our “Engage Africa” Initiative. The Initiative was taken forward in the beautiful city of Nairobi earlier this year with the hosting by Pakistan of the First Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference. That none other than President Kenyatta of Kenya graced the occasion symbolized strongly, the strength and depth of our ties.
Under “Engage Africa”, Pakistan is shoring up its diplomatic presence in this important part of the world, increasing high-level interactions, and laying down the foundations of a futuristic partnership that focuses on connectivity, economic complementarity, and mutual investments. We have already made a promising start and look forward to taking this process to a new level.
We are fully aware of how the broader region is changing rapidly. To optimally utilize the opportunities available, and to guard against the threats, it is imperative that scholarly research is deployed to better comprehend the seismic shifts. This is why I believe that the establishment of the Centre for Middle East and Africa is both timely and beneficial.
I wish the Centre the very best in its pursuits and assure it, as well as the ISSI of the maximum cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
I thank you!