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Pakistan willing to host 19th SAARC Summit

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Qureshi stated that Pakistan was willing to host the 19th SAARC Summit and invited India to virtually attend the event.

He regretted that India’s continuous negative attitude had made the most effective forum for economic cooperation and development dysfunctional.

Pakistan was keen to further boost its bilateral ties with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, he added.

About relations with India, the foreign minister said unfortunately, the prospects of durable peace and stability in the region, and the great potential for economic development and regional cooperation had been held hostage by the hegemonic and hostile behavior of India, whose BJP-RSS Hindutva inspired leadership had adopted a particularly irresponsible and politically motivated anti-Pakistan posture, and a patently anti-Muslim approach at home.

He said India’s unilateral and illegal actions in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) since August 5, 2019 aimed at undermining the status of the disputed territory, perpetuating its illegal occupation, and altering its demographic structure, and the unabated widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and state-terrorism against the innocent Kashmiris had further vitiated the environment and threatened international peace and security.

“Pakistan desires friendly relations with all its neighbours, including India. But as the prime minister has said, the onus is on India to take necessary steps to create an environment conducive for dialogue. Resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute is a prerequisite for durable peace and stability in South Asia,” Qureshi reiterated.

The foreign minister further elaborated that in one of the biggest ever crackdowns in the IIOJK, 1,400 Kashmiris were arrested arbitrarily in October, 2021. Since August 5, 2019, more than 502 Kashmiris had been martyred by the Indian occupation forces in fake encounters and extra-judicial operations, and around 78 of them in custody.

The United Nations Security Council, he said, had deliberated the Jammu and Kashmir issue three times since August 5, 2019. The UN Secretary-General had called on all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir, he added.

The foreign minister reaffirmed that Pakistan would continue to extend all possible moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their just struggle for self-determination.

He said developments in Afghanistan as the immediate neighbour presented a major challenge to Pakistan. The consequences of instability in Afghanistan always impacted Pakistan.

In the post August 15, 2021 period, he said, Pakistan played a pivotal role in the safe evacuation of over 80,000 individuals across 42 nationalities, consisting of diplomats, international NGO (non-governmental organization) workers, the media and many, many others.

The Government of Pakistan also pledged Rs 5 billion aid to Afghanistan, the first consignments of which had already started, he added.

Qureshi said Pakistan geared its diplomacy in advocating and garnering regional and international consensus on the need for constructive and sustained engagement with the new interim authorities in Afghanistan over the humanitarian crisis and the risk of economic collapse.

He cited Pakistan’s participation in the Moscow format Troika Plus Meeting held in Islamabad in this regard.

The foreign minister also termed holding of extraordinary session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers hosted by Pakistan to focus on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, another sincere effort which led to establishment of a Humanitarian Trust Fund under the Islamic Development Bank, launching of a food security programme and appointment of a Special Envoy of the OIC Secretary-General.

He said in the wake of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) Conference, the adoption of UN Security Council resolution reaffirmed that the provision of humanitarian and other assistance to Afghanistan was not a violation of UN sanctions.

In line with the ‘Vision Central Asia’, he said, Pakistan pursued active diplomatic outreach to the Central Asian Republics (CARs) with visits and participation of the senior leadership from different countries.

Engagement with East Asian partners continued under Vision East Asia policy, he added.

“With the Russian Federation, there was growing warmth and strengthening of relations. Bilateral trade increased by 20 percent during the first 10 months. We also maintained close engagement on Afghanistan,” he further added.

About Pak-US ties, he said Pakistan remained committed to the longstanding relationship with the United States and looked forward to expanding it as a broad-based mutually beneficial partnership.

“Pakistan’s exports to the United States rose by 39 percent to cross the $5 billion mark for the first time. As a result of the government’s efforts, Pakistan was included in Amazon’s Seller’s List. The United States supported Pakistan’s Covid-19 response through the provision of 27.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. We also maintained close engagement on Afghanistan,” he added.

Qureshi said through ‘Engage Africa Policy’, there were a series of substantive and unprecedented initiatives during the year.

Of the five new missions to be established, he said, Kigali became operational in March. Pakistan hosted virtual celebrations of Africa Day with 27 African nations, and celebrated ‘Pak-Africa Friendship Day’ in 15 African capitals.

“We signed 12 MoUs on BPC with various African countries and one MoU on Visa Abolition with Senegal,” he said.

The foreign minister further informed that in January this year, Pakistan would assume chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China – the largest grouping of developing countries in the UN.

Earlier, Pakistan served as the president of ECOSOC for the term 2020-2021. During the last year, Pakistan got elected to seven UN bodies, he added. | YouTube Channel

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.