ISLAMABAD: On Monday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi dismissed the opposition’s “diplomatic isolation” accusation and called for bipartisan unity on foreign policy issues.
Winding up a discussion on foreign policy in the Senate, Mr Qureshi invited opposition legislators to a briefing on global relations and to build a consensus on various issues relevant to it.
“Foreign policy is linked to the interests of the state,” he stressed, warning against the emergence of competing opinions on ties with the outside world.
In the event that they did not wish to come to him, the foreign minister promised to meet the opposition leaders.
“The administration is open-minded. On this, we are not narrow-visioned,’ he affirmed.
Senators offered briefing on foreign affairs to forge consensus
The foreign minister ignored the opposition’s criticism of the country experiencing international isolation and said that, considering India’s wishes and efforts, it had not occurred.
In this regard, he highlighted the performance of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to which Pakistan was re-elected last October; the United Nations Economic and Social Council, to which Pakistan currently holds the presidency; and the 7% rise in trade with Africa last year.
He, however, said that “challenges, pitfalls, and spoilers” were known to the government and had a roadmap to go forward.
Mr. Qureshi said the foreign policy problems were not fresh and some of them were long-standing and preceded the current administration.
He also touched on some of the major interactions.
The Foreign Minister pointed out that there has been considerable convergence with the current Biden administration in Washington on different facets of the Afghan war, in particular with respect to the withdrawal of troops and the reduction of aggression.
He said he sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, well before he had spoken to him last week, stressing the convergence.
The government in the area, he said, needed good relations with all its neighbours.
He argued that Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan had strengthened and Kabul, along with the international community, had begun to recognise the support of Islamabad for the peace process.
He also pointed out another change in the Afghanistan policy and said that the government no longer engaged with just one ethnic group in Afghanistan and began reaching out to other major ethnic groups as well.
As for India, he said, the government wanted normal relations with it, but because of lack of reciprocation from the other side, that could not go forward. On the radical Hindutva mentality dominating India, he blamed the present stalemate in relations.
Mr. Qureshi noted that during the current government’s term, relations with Iran had strengthened dramatically, as demonstrated by the six visits by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Tehran’s support for the Kashmir problem and progress in border management. Border markets, he said, are now being set up.
The evergreen relations with China, he said, are deepening further. The second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was underway, he said, involving industrial relocation, technology transfer and agricultural investment, all of which would improve national productivity.
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In his ties with Saudi Arabia, the foreign minister denied the impression of lukewarmness. He claimed that as the foreign exchange reserves increased, the loan provided by Riyadh was time-bound and the state paid it. At the United Nations and OIC meeting in Niamey, Pakistan was sponsored by the Saudi government, he noted (Niger).
As for the UAE, Mr. Qureshi said, his Emirati counterpart had told him that their ties with India would not be at Pakistan’s expense.