ISLAMABAD: While valuing its longstanding relations with the United States, Pakistan says that it now seeks a relationship with the US that is in sync with its changed priority.
“Looking towards the future, we do not want a transactional relationship with the US. We want multifaceted ties that are not susceptible to the vagaries of regional and international policies,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday while speaking at the Margalla Dialogue Forum 2021 in Islamabad. He pointed out that this is in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision for a shift from geopolitics to geo-economics.
In this regard, he added: “Enhanced trade and investment ties with the US and cooperation with regard to regional connectivity can work to our mutual benefit.”
Some of the other foreign policy issues that Qureshi spoke on were related to Russia, India, Afghanistan, China and the Digital Sphere. “Indeed, we live in times of uncertainty. The world order seems in a state of severe stress and disarray. In these times, the foreign policy and geopolitics are largely linked to geo-economics. I have consistently maintained, from here on, the economy is in many ways our strategic compass with a dominant presence as priority of the foreign policy,” said the foreign minister.
Turning to Pakistan’s foreign policy challenges, Qureshi pointed to India. In this regard, he pointed out that Pakistan’s quest for peace and geo-economic strength cannot be a solo performance. “It takes two to tango. Soon after taking office, our government made overture after overture, unilaterally, to open channels of communications to build confidence and engage India. Our eastern neighbour, however, chose to close all doors on any kind of talks. What’s more, it took the most drastic militaristic steps to invade and lay siege to the disputed territory of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), disenfranchise its 14 million people and brutalise them,” he said.
Heavily criticizing India’s actions in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, he said these have created a conundrum for Indian apologists in Kashmir and even for India’s foreign friends.
Indian atrocities are too egregious to be masked by the veneer of secularism and democratic pretentions. “It is the duty of the United Nations and the international community to hold India accountable for this unconscionable state of affairs”, he added.
India, he stressed, must realize that without resolving the Kashmir issue, one could not free the people of South Asia from perennial instability. Without the necessary global condemnation and intervention, the region will continue to remain insecure and peace and prosperity will be a major challenge.
China, he said, comes up when one speaks of the future of the foreign policy and the role geo-economics is playing. “Our relations with China are resilient and poised to grow further. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project, will leverage economic geography and connectivity of the three contiguous continents – Asia, Europe and Africa – ushering in prosperity for all global citizens,” he said. With Russia, he said, Pakistan’s diplomatic outreach had not only led to a rapprochement but opened doors for reinvigorated relations in the security and economic realms.
“The Pak-Russia trajectory is contributing to stability in the region and we will continue to strengthen it. The upshot is that a country like Pakistan sitting astride the crossroads of South, Central and West Asia cannot make binary choices. We will remain equidistant, accessible to all, reaching out to all,” he said.
Speaking on Afghanistan, Qureshi said there is a dire humanitarian crisis which has consequences not only for the people of Afghanistan but indeed us as neighbours, the region and beyond. “Indeed, I believe Pakistan hosting the OIC Extraordinary Meeting of Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan is in line with the leadership role that the country has demonstrated in the region,” he said.
Turing to the Digital Sphere, the Foreign Minister said this is what is connecting the economy with the future of the foreign policy. Big Tech, by amassing and monopolizing data, is outgrowing capitalism by redesigning supply chains, virtual reality and the way we think and live. “Diplomacy is no more singularly reliant on leadership-to-leadership telephone calls or state visits. Technology has never played such a definitive role in relationships,” he said, adding that it is the data control that is influencing mindsets, controlling narratives and ultimately crafting the perception game.
“Staying connected, staying ahead and staying alert in the digital space is of paramount importance to achieve foreign policy goals. Bilateral issues, political consultations, multilateral conferences, you name it, are all happening online. Today, perception wars are won and lost on twitter. So what better place for diplomacy than online, where you use less resources to achieve even greater outcomes in shorter amounts of time”, he said.