Since coming into power, the incumbent government has paid special attention to improving country’s economy and making it an investment-friendly place. As a result of the relentless efforts of government’s financial team, the country has made great strides in the realm of economic development, a fact recognized by numerous international rating agencies and financial institutions. However, country’s performance on foreign policy front has been dismal. Pakistan’s isolation on international arena has become ever more conspicuous in recent months. Besides, the resurgence of independence movement in Kashmir after the brutal killing of Burhan Wani has also made Pakistan rethink and re-direct its foreign policy.
Afghanistan-India-Iran tripartite agreement to build Chabahar port, Afghanistan’s growing hostility toward Pakistan, an impasse in country’s relations with Iran and an environment of distrust with India, all point toward the fact that Pakistan is getting isolated in the comity of nations and except China no country in the region or among the superpowers seems to be on good terms with Pakistan. This state of affairs was extremely worrisome and hence required a sea change in country’s foreign policy. So, in order to deliberate upon the future course of country’s foreign policy, the Envoys’ Conference was held in Islamabad at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the country’s foreign policy and prepare recommendations in view of emerging regional developments. At the Conference, held from 1st to 3rd August, nine envoys of Pakistan accredited to various world capitals and multilateral institutions — Jalil Abbas Jilani (USA), Masood Khalid (China), Abdul Basit (India), Maleeha Lodhi (United Nations), Ayesha Riyaz (Austria), Naghmana Hashmi (EU, Belgium and Luxembourg), Abrar Hussain (Afghanistan), Tehmina Janjua (United Nations, Geneva) and Qazi M. Khalilullah (Russia) — gathered to discuss foreign policy challenges Pakistan is faced with at present. The envoys discussed matters of great importance to the country and chewed over issues like relationship with India, the United States, Afghanistan, China, Russia and the European Union.
After thorough discussions and deliberations, the envoys presented their recommendations toward existing foreign policy with a view to review, adapt and recalibrate it in accordance with the prevalent strategic, political and economic trends.
The details coming out of the conference clearly show that moot was successful and productive. It afforded an opportunity to policymakers and those handling foreign policy affairs in field to have threadbare discussion on critical issues and fine-tune response of the country. The need for economic diplomacy was also greatly emphasized at the conference. This is understandable as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has an economic and developmental agenda, which cannot be implemented without active cooperation from Pakistan’s partners and donors. It is for this reason that the present government has successfully paved the way for initiation of different projects under CPEC.
But, it is also true that country’s exports earnings are shrinking mainly because of government’s inability in ensuring uninterrupted power supply to industries. Moreover, it is also true that for this decline, apart from Ministry of Commerce, our missions abroad are also responsible as many of our Ambassadors do nothing except attending some functions and having meetings with some officials in host countries. In most of the countries we also have economic and commercial consulars but they also are more interested in enjoying perks and spending their tenure as holidays abroad than working hard to explore markets for our products and investment in different sectors of the country’s economy. Therefore, the emphasis of envoys was rightly on economic diplomacy and it is hoped that the Prime Minister, the Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Commerce Minister and Foreign Secretary would assess performance of our missions abroad on this account and hold them accountable for any slackness.
Pakistan has resolved not to let India continue its state-sponsored terror in held Kashmir and decided to pressurise the world to help find a solution to the decade-old dispute between the two nuclear armed neighbours.
After revisiting the foreign policy, it was decided to make better relations with China and Russia.
Pakistan’s resumption of strategic dialogue with the United States, relations with Muslim World, Central Asian Republics, CASA-1000 electricity project and TAPI gas pipeline project were declared as the major achievements.
Pakistan’s full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and preventing India’s NSG membership were termed as major milestones of foreign policy.
A strong need was felt to make more focus on ties with European Union and Russian Federation and to play active role at UN and other international forums.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz refuted the view that Pakistan is being isolated and its foreign policy lacks direction.
The prime minister urged upon the envoys to intensify the economic diplomacy for the benefit of country.
The Prime Minister also emphasized the need for addressing challenges facing the country before they complicate further.
Excerpts from PM’s Address
The Prime Minister also attended the moot and was given a briefing related to the Pakistani diplomatic missions. While addressing the conference, the PM touched on various policy issues. Following are some important directions he gave to the envoys:
Need for Peace
“We cannot afford clash [with other countries], lest our ongoing economic and social progress come to a halt.”
“If we indulged in any conflict, it would stop the pace of economic and social development. We desire peace in the whole world but with mutual respect, dignity and equality. Our efforts for having friendly relations must not be construed as our weakness.”
“We believe in respect for each other’s solidarity, independence and non-interference.”
“Pakistan is better placed today to attract foreign investment and in this regard our envoys have a responsibility on their shoulders to project the country’s positive image abroad.”
“Through this mega project [CPEC] we are introducing a new vision of relationship. This project carries opportunities for Iran, Afghanistan and the Central Asian States.”
“China is a time-tested friend of Pakistan and this relationship has transformed into a multidimensional partnership.”
“We are determined to take Sino-Pak relationship to new heights.”
“The QCG process should be taken forward and Pakistan will always support efforts aimed at reviving peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan has a clear stance that it will not allow its territory to be used against any other country.”
The Prime Minister also urged the ambassadors to introduce a positive image of Pakistan to the outside world and to introduce Pakistan as an emerging market in the world which is far more stronger and stable than ever before.