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Key Achievements and Challenges of Nawaz Sharif government’s foreign policy

sartaj aziz

Chaudhry Ahsan Premee

Associated Press Service

Islamabad June 9, 2016

Foreign Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz said, speaking in detail on the achievements and challenges in the past three years the foreign policy of the present government during a press conference on Wednesday that  the 2013 Election Manifesto of PML (N) had called for a coherent, well formulated and popularly supported foreign policy to face new and daunting challenges that had emerged. After reviewing the then prevailing situation, the Manifesto outlined a clear vision. Let me recall those words:

 Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan is located at an important junction of South Asia, West Asia, and Central Asia. The country could be a bridge between energy rich Central Asia and Iran on one side and energy deficit countries like China and India on the other. Pakistan’s coastal belt facilitates access to warm waters and oil rich Gulf, as well as international oil supply lines passing through the Strait of Harmuz. Pakistan can also develop a flourishing transit economy because it provides the shortest land routes from Western China to the Arabian Sea, through the Gwadar Port, while linking India with Afghanistan and CAR and providing land route from Iran to India and access to the Central Asian Republics to the Arabian Sea and India for oil and gas pipelines.”

 Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  as PML (N) Government has completed the first three years of its tenure, it is an opportune juncture to make an objective assessment of its achievement in foreign policy and also the challenges that lie ahead.

 Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  as soon as the new Government assumed office in June 2013, the following renewed foreign policy guidelines were issued to all the Pakistan Missions abroad:

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that the most important objective of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to contribute to the objective of economic revival and economic self reliance.

  To achieve these objectives, Pakistan wants improved relations with its neighbours, specially China, India, Afghanistan and Iran and a wider, more robust relationship with the United States based on mutual respect.

 Stronger bonds with the Muslim World, mutually beneficial relations with the Central Asian States, and revival of economic cooperation  with Russia.

Achievements:

  Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that the most important achievement of the past three years was undoubtedly the path breaking transformation in Pakistan’s strategic partnership with China. The most visible manifestation of this transformation was the launch, in April 2015, of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) involving Chinese investment of           $ 46 billion in energy, infrastructure, communication projects and for developing the Gwadar Port. Its implementation will lay a solid foundation for enhanced regional trade, integration, connectivity and industrial investment. China has already become Pakistan’s largest trading partner with two way trade at $ 19 billion in 2015.

 Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  the second major accomplishment was enhanced cooperation with Central Asian Republics. High level exchange of visits with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan provided the required impetus and direction to wide ranging initiatives with these countries. Pakistan’s geo-strategic location at the crossroads of Asia, makes it a natural economic hub for energy corridors, and regional integration. In translating this vision into reality, three important projects, apart from CPEC have already been finalized; CASA 1000 would bring surplus electricity from Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, TAPI gas pipeline would transmit natural gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India; Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project is also being pursued. These projects are in different stages of implementation. Air links with Central Asia are being restored and new road links will emerge with the completion of CPEC.

 Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  the third positive development of the past three years was our success in obtaining Pakistan’s full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This is an important milestone for re-balancing Pakistan’s place in the global arena. Greater regional cooperation in controlling extremism and drug trafficking will yield important economic benefits.

  Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that fourth, in pursuit of the Prime Minister’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood, Pakistan has been making sincere efforts to deepen its engagement with Afghanistan and address post 9/11 mistrust, by facilitating reconciliation talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban. For this purpose, the creation of a new mechanism, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) during the Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference in Islamabad, in December 2015 was a major step forward. The recent drone attack in Balochistan in which the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed, has breached our sovereignty, caused a serious setback to the peace efforts and intensified hostilities in Afghanistan. The drone strike must, therefore, be condemned by all stakeholders.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan is committed to deeper engagement with Afghanistan. QCG has also endorsed Pakistan’s contention that the option of the military action has been tried for 15 years, with the help of 130,000 ISAF forces, without much success. The alternative route of a negotiated political settlement cannot yield results within a few months. It will require more time and patient collective efforts by all the members of the QCG, to bring durable peace to Afghanistan.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that   fifth, Pakistan has continued its efforts to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, with India through dialogue, There was some positive progress in December 2015, when during the Heart of Asia Conference, Foreign Minister of India and I agreed to resume the Comprehensive Dialogue on all issues covered under eight segments. But before the Foreign Secretaries could meet and finalize a schedule for resuming the Comprehensive Dialogue, the Pathankot incident of 2 January 2016 gave India an excuse to postpone the resumption of the dialogue. Pakistan sent a Joint Investigation Team to India and has already initiated the required investigation against those alleged to be involved. Pakistan believes that dialogue is the best way forward to resolve outstanding issues, including mutual concerns related to terrorism.

  Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that sixth, Pakistan succeeded in resuming the Strategic Dialogue with USA in 2013, after the difficult phase in the relationship experienced during 2011-12. Three sessions have been held, on the basis of the work of six Working Groups on energy, economy, defence, non-proliferation, counter terrorism, education, science and technology, in January 2014, January 2015 and February 2016. The Prime Minister also paid two successful visits to USA in October 2013 and October 2015. Three business opportunities conferences have been held in the past two years.

  Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan is strongly committed to the objectives of strategic stability in South Asia. The international community has appreciated the system evolved by Pakistan for nuclear safety, nuclear security, strict export controls and effective command and control. Pakistan has actively participated in Nuclear Security Summits. In our interactions, we firmly conveyed to the USA that maintaining effective nuclear deterrence is critical for Pakistan’s security and only Pakistan itself can determine how it should respond to the growing strategic and conventional imbalances in South Asia.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  Seventh, Pakistan’s engagement with the European Union and its member states, both bilaterally and within the EU framework has seen tangible progress in the past three years. After intense lobbying, Pakistan succeeded in winning GSP+ status in 2014, leading to significant growth in Pakistan’s exports to the EU. Pakistan’s Strategic Dialogue with UK at Foreign Ministers level, serves as the central pivot of this important and growing bilateral relationship. Pakistan’s relations with Germany, France and Italy have moved on a positive trajectory.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  after his ground-breaking meeting with President Putin in Ufa in July 2015, the Prime Minister has paid particular attention, to the consolidation and expansion of Pakistan’s relations with Russia. Agreement on the construction of North South Gas Pipeline in Pakistan with $ 2 billion Russian investment is a significant milestone.

 Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  eighth, Pakistan’s traditional ties with the Muslim World are reinforced by strong economic ties and the presence of 5 million strong diaspora in the Gulf countries and total trade of $ 17 billion. Exchange of high level visits became more intense in the past three years with greater focus on economic cooperation and containing the spread of violent extremism in several Middle Eastern countries. Pakistan has been playing an active role in reducing tensions and promoting unity within the Muslim Ummah. For this purpose, Prime Minister visited Saudi Arabia and Iran in January 2016. Pakistan also welcomed the Saudi Arabia initiative to forge a 35 countries military alliance to counter terrorism.

  Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that lifting of international sanctions from Iran have opened the opportunity to revive and expand economic and trade relations. President Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan in March 2016 has given a fresh impetus to these opportunities. With Turkey our special relationship has been growing from strength to strength.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  ninth, Pakistan continued its pioneering role in shaping regional and multilateral arrangements for cooperation in SAARC, OIC, ECO, D-8 and Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD). With active participation in the OIC, we ensured stronger OIC support to the Kashmir cause.

    Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  Pakistan will be hosting the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November this year. SAARC Connectivity agreements are under active consideration.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  Pakistan’s Associate Membership of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in September 2015 was a recognition of major achievements made by Pakistani scientists and technicians in the scientific field, especially in peaceful uses of nuclear energy and research.

Finally, Pakistan continued its lead role in the United Nations and other international fora, on important issues of peace and security, socio-economic development, climate change and human rights:

 We maintained effective and strong position on Kashmir dispute at the UN and other multilateral fora. Prime Minister’s principled stance on Jammu and Kashmir in his addresses during the UNGA were reflective of the nation’s sentiments.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  Pakistan and its partners in the ‘Uniting for Consensus’ (UFC) Group, have successfully defended our principled position on expansion of UN Security Council and countered the G-4 campaign for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

 Despite pressing commitments within the country, we remain a lead contributor to UN peacekeeping missions.

 Pakistan mustered international support leading to the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2015 against drone strikes.

 Efforts towards promotion and protection of human rights i.e. establishment of the National Commission on Human Rights, approval of a National Action Plan, and submission of reports on various human rights conventions (CRC, ICERD, ICCPR, ICESCR and CAT) to the UN were acknowledged.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  success in Pakistan’s claim for extension in continental shelf in 2015, accorded to us an additional area of approximately 50,000 sq. km.

 Pakistan maintained its strong profile at the international level through membership of the principal organs and other key bodies of the UN system. During the period, Pakistan won 17 out of 18 elections contested for various UN bodies.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  these solid accomplishments have laid the basis for even greater achievements in the coming years provided we successfully address the emerging challenges, maintain political stability by further strengthening democratic institutions and traditions and consolidate the economic gains we have achieved in the past three years.

 

Future Challenges and Priorities

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that in this fast moving, crisis ridden phase of world history, new security and foreign policy challenges keep emerging every day, every week and every month. According to a famous author, a country has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate national interests to avoid war and is able to protect them through war, if challenged. Pakistan has so far, largely fulfilled this national security imperative through a vibrant foreign policy and persistent efforts of its institutions and diplomatic assets.

  Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that the Foreign Office is constantly analyzing global and regional events and trends to formulate feasible policy options. Based on this analysis, Pakistan’s foreign policy challenges and priorities for the coming year will include the following:

 Consolidating the success achieved in eliminating terrorism and extremism through intensify the implementation of the National Action Plan. The Karachi Cleanup Plan initiated in September 2013, launch of operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014 and the comprehensive National Action Plan set into motion in January 2015, have led to a 60 percent reduction in cases of suicide attacks and bomb blasts in 2015, bringing about a significant improvement in the overall security situation. These gains will be consolidated to ensure that “no armed militias are allowed to function in the country”.

Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that  the gradual implementation of this policy, combined with efforts to revive the intra Afghan dialogue process under the QCG and deeper engagements with Afghan leadership and security agencies would help to bring down the level of insurgency in Afghanistan. This is necessary for maintaining peace and stability in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

 Continue and intensify engagement with USA at different levels to achieve our common objectives of durable peace in Afghanistan and sustainabilic stability in South Asia.

 Formulation of a multi-dimensional   implementation plan to ensure effective and timely completion of all CPEC projects, full protection to  Chinese workers and experts and countering all subversive and negative moves against CPEC.

 Wide ranging preparations will be undertaken to ensure the success of the SAARC Summit which will be hosted by Pakistan in November 2016 in Islamabad and leads to improved relation and cooperation with all SAARC member countries.

 Advisor to Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that continue efforts for greater self reliance in armaments and greater diversification for sources of procurement for defence equipment with emphasis on the importance of maintaining strategic and conventional balance in South Asia, as an important pre-requisite for improving Pakistan relations with India.

  Expand mutually beneficial economic relations with all countries including South East Asian countries, Japan, Republic of Korea and African countries.

  Increase share of skilled workers in the GCC countries and actively promote the well being of Pakistani diaspora in the Middle East and other countries.

 In addressing these and other challenges that will undoubtedly emerge, the Foreign Office will continue to need support and guidance from the political leadership including the Opposition and the Parliament.

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