ISLAMABAD: Speaking on “Pakistan’s Foreign Policy – 2013 to 2018 Challenges, Successes and Future Direction” On the conclusion of the Parliament’s term, Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan Thursday highlighted the landmark achievements on diplomatic front during the last five years of the PML-N government.
During the Foreign Office weekly press briefing, he said, “In these past five years, we have been faced with numerous challenges emanating from a difficult strategic environment, the unprecedented flux in our geopolitical context, and our fight against terrorism and extremism.”
He said first under former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and later under the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the country endeavoured to forge closer and better relations with countries in our neighbourhood, and the world at large.
Khurram Dastgir asserted that the aim of the government was to promote economic connectivity, strengthen partnerships, expand Pakistan’s diplomatic space, and raise the international profile of the country while simultaneously serving Pakistani diaspora the world over and safeguarding their interests.
He said, “We have navigated successfully through turbulent waters, and have achieved measurable success through a “regional recalibration” of our foreign policy.”
He highlighted seven notable landmark achievements of the PML-N government during the last five years as:
FIRSTLY: Further strengthening and deepening of relations with the People’s Republic of China. He said China had always been the anchor of our foreign policy. Sino-Pak friendship had no parallels in the annals of history, adding, “We have managed to elevate it to an even higher plane. Our interaction at the highest political level has remained significant.”
The minister said in these five years, Pakistan had welcomed President Xi Jinping, in his historic visit of April 2015, Premier Li Keqiang, and numerous high-level dignitaries from China. From Pakistan ten head of state and head-of-government level visits had transpired, he added.
He said the launch and quick progress on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, had been a landmark achievement, adding, “It is a measure of success of our foreign policy that we are now poised to translate our geostrategic location into a geoeconomic asset.”
Khurram Dastgir said CPEC was forging ahead with full steam. He said it had attracted investments of $46.6 billion and had put Pakistan squarely at the centre of a blueprint for a more hopeful, prosperous, and connected future for the region and the world.
SECONDLY: A concerted outreach to Central Asia, resulting in a marked and visible upswing in our relations with this important region. Pakistan successfully hosted after a gap of nearly twenty-two years, the Thirteenth ECO Summit in Islamabad in March 2017 and assumed Chairmanship of ECO for the ensuing year.
The summit brought together regional leaders and underscored our centrality in pushing forward the connectivity agenda for the region.
THIRDLY: Pakistan’s formal accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a full member marks our entry into the largest club of nations in terms of the size of populations, geographic expanse, and quantum of resources. This was a breakthrough we managed to achieve 12 years after assuming observer status in the SCO, and some 18 years after its founding.
FOURTHLY: For the first time in history, we created and reinforced a historically unprecedented opening in relations with the Russian Federation. In recent times, there had been regular visits between our two sides. We had developed mutual understandings and coordinated closely on issues of mutual concern. This relationship today had the potential to blossom into a multifaceted partnership.
FIFTHLY: Continued engagement and strengthening of our relations with our traditional partners and allies in the Middle East. Rising tensions and insecurities in that region necessitated undertaking delicate balancing measures while remaining true to our strong conviction the solidarity of the Ummah, and our abiding commitment to the security of our partners. It was a difficult test, but Alhamdulillah, we were able to succeed as a responsible power. Today, our relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran, among others, remained robust and continued to evolve. Our partnerships with the Gulf States remained vibrant and mutually rewarding.
SIXTHLY: Our continued engagement with our partners in Europe, America and the Far East. It was a measure of the success of our economic diplomacy, that Pakistan was able to attain the GSP Plus Status in 2014 for ten years, the widest and longest trade facilitation in Pakistan’s history. We had sustained it successfully ever since, delivering a 38% increase in Pakistan’s exports to the European Union.
SEVENTHLY: Pakistan continued to maintain a high profile and leadership role in international forums including the UN. We remained a lead contributor to UN’s global peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions. It was a measure of our recognition and acknowledgment of our efforts that Pakistan had recently won elections to three important UN bodies: The Human Rights Council, ECOSOC’s Committee on NGOs, and to the UNICEF Executive Board. Out of 30 elections that we contested between 2013 to 2018, we won 27.
Khurram Dastgir said Pakistan stood and will continue to stand, firmly and resolutely by the side of its Kashmiri brethren in their just quest for freedom. He said at every forum, on every platform, particularly at the UN General Assembly by former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Abbasi had highlighted the Indian atrocities and forcefully put forward the case of the Kashmiris.
He said, “We believe that a stable Afghanistan is essential for a stable neighborhood. Pakistan and Afghanistan are linked together by bonds of language, culture, and history that are as abiding as they are deep,” he added.
The minister said for seventeen years, Afghanistan and together with it Pakistan, have suffered at the hands of overtly militaristic approaches to addressing the problem of terrorism and extremism.