No meaningful engagement with India unless revocation of illegal, unilateral steps on IIOJK: FM

Celina Ali

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday reiterated that Pakistan’s stance over its relations with India was very clear and consistent; unless it revoked its illegal and unilateral acts of 2019 over occupied Jammu and Kashmir, there was no space to meaningful engagement.

He said that India had not only violated the international laws and the United Nations Security Council resolutions, but also the bilateral agreements between the two countries.

“There is no space left for Pakistan to meaningfully engage with India,” the foreign minister maintained while addressing a presser to highlight the achievement of the ministry of foreign affairs during his tenure.

The foreign minister replying to a query said that he went to Goa, India to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting despite serious reservation and carrying a head money, to present Pakistan’s stance and tried to utilize the space available for the pronounce Pakistan’s interests.

He said due to his participation in SCO where he presented Pakistan’s stance clearly, India went on the back foot and held the SCO heads of states summit virtually.

About sending Pakistan national team to contest in the ICC Cricket World Cup in India, he said contrary to India’s indulgence in immature acts, Pakistan always maintained that there should be difference between politics and sports, adding that they still had security concerns as the security of the national team could not be compromised; and they had conveyed such to the ICC and India.

The foreign minister, to another question, said that Pakistan was not interested in the bloc politics and did not want to be part of any polar world because they wanted to serve their 224 million population, and if they were drawn into others’ interests, then they would be distracted.

The foreign minister, responding to a question about Afghanistan, said that certain opinions were being formed across the world on the basis of ground realities.

If they wanted a diplomatic recognition, the Afghan interim government would have to address the international concerns, but if they continued with their statements, it would create complications and the Afghan people would continue to suffer, he added.

Foreign Minister Bilawal said that after fall of Kabul, there was a sharp spike in terrorist incidents in Pakistan and stressed that cooperation and engagement between the two countries was necessary to tackle the issue.

He said Pakistan remained engaged with the Afghan leadership. About women’s education issue, he said, Pakistan had a very open and clear stance.

For the first time, they arranged trilateral format among Pakistan, China and Afghanistan to make them realize the concerns of Pakistan and China regarding terrorism, he said, adding Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar had also visited Afghanistan.

The foreign minister said using the OIC platform at the UN women education conference, he had addressed the world community and highlighted steps taken by Pakistan for the women’s rights. The event also enabled the OIC member countries to show to the world the initiatives taken for the women’s rights which also helped to remove the impression in which the Muslim world was painted.

Terming the fight against terrorism as their own fight, the foreign minister said that Pakistan had been the largest country in the world affected from the curse of terrorism.

He said that they wanted to save their coming generations and would not allow the enemies of the religion, country and the people to cause any further harm.

The foreign minister also expressed strong opposition with the previous government’s policy over the terrorists hiding in Afghanistan.

The foreign minister expressed the satisfaction that at the diplomatic front, they moved ahead with ‘damage control’ during the last 16 months.

He regretted that the PTI’s government had caused damage to the country’s relations with world capitals and strongly disagreed with the gesture of former prime minister waving a letter sent by the EU in public.

Bilawal said that diplomatic affairs of the country should be run for the benefits of the people of the country, emphasising “consistency and continuity’ in the foreign policy.

To a question, he replied that he had already maintained during previous government’s tenure that they should not expect anything from Modi, who was a butcher of Gujarat and was quite different from Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.

About Russia-Ukraine conflict, he said that Pakistan wanted a peaceful resolution of the issue.

He said they did not want to see relationship with Russia through the prism of the ongoing issue, as they wanted to collectively unlock the immense potential between the two countries. They prayed that diplomacy and peace would prevail, he added.

The foreign minister said Pakistan was committed to Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline for the mutual benefits of the people of the two countries.

Earlier, the foreign minister highlighted the achievements of his ministry on the diplomatic fronts and global fora with increased outreach, and extensive engagements with the international community.

He said Pakistan engaged with the US, Europe and UK through bilateral and multilateral meetings.

“What gives me satisfaction, however, is that the positive trajectory in our relations with both US and China have been pursued with clarity, underpinned by our consistent position that we do not want to be dragged into a global competition,” he said.

Also, the foreign minister said Pakistan maintained its principled position on the Ukraine conflict. “Despite all the doubts and apprehensions in media, our voting pattern on related resolutions in multilateral fora remained unchanged. We invested significant effort in engaging both sides of the divide, and today, I believe there is a greater understanding of Pakistan’s position”, he added.

This was clearly evidenced by their closer engagement with the US and the EU, burgeoning energy cooperation with Russia, and visits to Pakistan by the Foreign Ministers of Belarus and Ukraine, he added.

“This broad, deep and meaningful engagement with all countries also helped building trust with the countries that sit on the IMF board. Its coming to fruition last month was a gratifying moment,” the foreign minister said.

Removal from FATF’s grey list, hosting of Geneva conference and revival of IMF’s programme were some of the conspicuous achievements for Pakistan, he added.

Visa facilitation, cooperation in science and technology resulted in opening of doors for Pakistanis seeking jobs abroad, he said, adding they had corrected the diplomatic course.

The foreign minister said that during his tenure in office, they never compromised on the core issue of Kashmir and effectively advocated for the oppressed people of Kashmir at all fora.

Kashmir issue had been a consistent component of the foreign policy, he said and enumerated Pakistan’s efforts to address issues of Islamophobia and desecration of the Holy Quran, leading to adoption of resolution by the UN Human Rights Council.

The foreign minister thanked the UN Secretary General for his efforts to support Pakistan during last year’s floods.

He said that they would provide 2 million climate resilient houses to the flood affected people in Sindh, adding that a huge number of educational institutions and roads network were also affected in that natural calamity.

The foreign minister highlighted 51 different change reforms initiatives carried out in the ministry to increase its functionality and efficiency.