Pakistan ready to engage with new US administration

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday said Pakistan was ready to engage with the new administration of the United States, considering it an “opportunity to build a long-term, broad-based and multidimensional relationship”.

“Such partnership would require an institutionalized and structured engagement, based on mutual respect and cooperation,” the Foreign Minister said at a webinar on Pakistan’s priorities with the upcoming 46th U.S. administration, organized by Karachi Council on Foreign Relations.

Foreign Minister Qureshi expressed confidence that president-elect Joe Biden as an “old friend to Pakistan” would work towards strengthening ties between the two countries.

He said already exchange of messages had taken place between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the U.S. president-elect, who expressed interest of working with Pakistan on issues of common interests.

“Our historic ties can reset as Pakistan and U.S must share an understanding to deal with challenges of present for a better tomorrow,” he said.

Qureshi said the two countries needed to work in confronting challenges in the wake of pandemic, global economic slowdown, climate change and erosion of multilateralism.

He said the U.S. must continue to count on Pakistan as a partner for peace in Afghanistan where other actors did not share the same vision and played role of “spoilers”.

“Both our sides must remain cognizant that achieving an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan would only be the first step towards peace,” he said.

The Foreign Minister said Pakistan and the U.S. needed to work together to facilitate Afghanistan’s transition from a war economy to a peace economy, adding that complete support and engagement of international community would be a vital or sustainable for peace and development of Afghanistan.

Qureshi said Pakistan had shifted its strategy of geo-politics in of the past to geo-economics.

He said at the cost of 83,000 innocent lives and 126 billion dollar losses to economy, Pakistan had turned the tide against terrorism.

Also, the erstwhile tribal areas that suffered the brunt of terrorism have been included into the political mainstream, he added.

He said Pakistan would continue to take action again terrorists on its soil.

“Our journey from terrorism to tourism has been exemplified by New York Times that included Lahore as one of the top places to visit in 2021 and 2022,” he said.

Qureshi said Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan was witnessing a fundamental transformation with economic growth and human development as top priorities.

Qureshi said Pakistan would remain a partner for peace in the region. He said Kartarpur corridor and return of the downed Indian pilot who had violated the airspace was a few manifestations among many of the government’s fundamental policy focus.

The Foreign Minister said while the road to peace in Afghanistan remained long and difficult, Pakistan and the U.S. made progress particularly in last two years and could do further in future.

“Pakistan will continue to work with the U.S. for peace in the region. Our relationship has been and must be larger in the sum total of our shared interests with respect to Afghaistan and counter-terrorism,” he said.

On India, he mentioned that the country had changed for worse with illegal action of August 5, persecution of Kashmiris and religious minorities and its strained relations with all neighbours owing to Hindutva approach.

He said Pakistan had already shared a detailed dossier with the U.S. on India’s efforts to promote terrorism and instability in Pakistan and hoped that the Biden administration would facilitate substantive engagement between Pakistan and India to help resolve outstanding disputes.

He said the U.S must be mindful of India’s designs to distract the international community from its nefarious designs as its leaders openly spoke about using military force against Pakistan in a nuclearized environment.

Qureshi said Pakistan was a nation of 220 million with two-third of its population under 30 years of age and sitting at crossroads of China, and South and Central Asia.

He said since Pakistan envisioned itself as a future hub for trade and investment in the region, the U.S administration could maintain geo-economic relations with Pakistan. For incoming Biden admin, he stressed cooperation in energy, public health and climate change. He called for enhanced educational exchanges between two countries.

He mentioned that Pakistani-American community was playing an important bridge and core factor in bringing closer the two nations.

On the strategy of Foreign Office in taking diplomatic offensive, he said the focus had shifted towards geo-economics that demanded peace in the region.

About balancing powers between U.S. and China, he said Pakistan understands the importance of U.S. which is a global economic, military and technology partner, while China stood with Pakistan in odds.

“We want a very balanced and a healthy relationship with two powers and don’t want to be seen as wither in one or another camp. Pakistan is willing to engage with everyone,” he said.

He said, “Pakistan and U.S. have convergences in many areas and also differences, which can be ironed out with better understanding,” he said.

Chairman Karachi Council on Foreign Relations Ikram Sehgal, former ambassador Robin Raphel, and intellectuals Dr Huma Baqai, Kaleem Farooqui and Javed Ashraf participated in the webinar.