WASHINGTON: A major priority of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to transform its relations with the country’s closest neighbours, Afghanistan and India, says Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani.
“We are engaging the leaderships of the two countries, to pursue our common agenda of peace and development,” the ambassador told a South Asia conference at the Georgetown University on Thursday.
Pakistan also believes that Saarc provides the member states an ideal platform to “forge synergies geared to transforming the quality of life of the people of South Asia”, he added.
The speech follows a 56-nation nuclear summit in Washington last week where US President Barack Obama urged India and Pakistan not to continue moving in the wrong direction as they develop their military doctrines.
Other speakers at the summit also stressed the need for improving relations between India and Pakistan, noting that tensions between two nuclear-armed states posed a major threat to world peace.
Ambassador Jilani said that Pakistan not only understood the need for improving relations with its neighbours but was also taking concrete steps for this.
“There is a need for an independent, unbiased academic and policy debate on the development priorities for South Asia,” he said.
Mr. Jilani said that Saarc was an important forum for coordinating a collective response to the region’s challenges including human development priorities and “Pakistan continues to be actively engaged in the Saarc process”.
He said Pakistan was closely following the historic transformations under way in and around South Asia region and at the global level. “Within this global context, there has been a paradigm shift under way in Pakistan too,” he added.
The ambassador said that the Pakistan government’s foreign policy had three distinct strands, representing a conscious and well-considered departure from the past: Pakistan’s first priority is building a peaceful regional environment, free from conflicts and terrorism.
The second strand of this policy, he said, was rebalancing geo-strategic and geo-economic priorities, with a sharper focus on economic diplomacy.
And the third pillar of this policy is the recognition of the vital contribution of the Pakistani diaspora to national development efforts and a commitment to realising their full potential and ensuring their welfare.
“Although Pakistan has seen steady progress on the economic front, there is an overwhelming realisation in Pakistan that without a peaceful internal environment, we will not be able to achieve our true economic potential,” the ambassador said.
He noted that the government had developed a national consensus against extremism and terrorism, as part of National Action Plan.
“By launching military operations in North Waziristan against terrorist networks, we have been able to clean up the tribal areas of Pakistan to a significant extent.
“Similarly, we have launched intelligence-based operations within the country against some of the domestic terrorist organisations.”
The ambassador noted that these efforts were producing results and terrorist attacks in Pakistan had declined by approximately 60-70pc.