FM says Pakistan’s interests lie in peace with India, peace in ‘sovereign’ Afghanistan

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Qureshi says Pakistan still trying to break stalemate in Afghanistan, as Islamabad always acted as a facilitator between Kabul, Taliban

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefs journalists about the upcoming visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince to Pakistan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Pakistan said Wednesday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will arrive in Islamabad later this week on an official visit that is expected to include the signing of agreements for billions of dollars of investment in Pakistan. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Pakistan’s interests lie in peace with India and peace in Afghanistan.

“Our interests lie in peace with India and peace in Afghanistan,” he said in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera TV. “Afghanistan is a ‘sovereign’ country and they could have relations with India,” he said.

Qureshi said that Pakistan would have no objection over these (Indo-Afghan) ties and India’s ‘reconstruction’ efforts in Afghanistan. But, India has its limitations, with regard to peace negotiations as it is not the immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and did not host millions of Afghan refugees,” he said.

“We are still trying to break the stalemate existed there,” he said, adding that Pakistan always acted as a facilitator between the Afghan government and Taliban. He said that Pakistan would never be irrelevant due to the regional picture and the new global changes. “Pakistan has always been relevant,” he said.

POLITICAL MISTAKE

To a question regarding importance of Pakistan-US ties, he said that the US could not afford to ignore Pakistan. Look at the size and geo-strategic location Pakistan has been placed in, its place among the Islamic countries and the history of these ties, Pakistan and US had been allies, he said. “They could not lose Pakistan, as it would be a big political mistake,” he said.

He said that the US realized the importance of Pakistan especially in the peace and reconciliation process of Afghanistan. About peace in Afghanistan, Qureshi said that Pakistan always advocated that peace and stability in Afghanistan was a shared responsibility. He said that Pakistan could not be blamed if things went wrong in Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan has played its part in the peace and stability of Afghanistan and would continue to do so. “We cannot be held responsible if there were internal squabbling inside Afghanistan.” He said Pakistan would be the net beneficiary of peace in Afghanistan since it had been making sincere efforts for peace and stability there.

About Pakistan’s contributions in Afghan peace process, Qureshi said that US special representative on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had publicly acknowledged positive and constructive role Pakistan played in getting the Afghan govt and Taliban to negotiating table, facilitating the US and Taliban peace agreement in Doha and pushing the peace and intra-Afghan dialogue forward.

PAKISTAN AS BRIDGE-BUILDER

He said all big countries have consensus over Afghanistan and convergence of opinion including China, Russia and the European Union. About China’s role in Afghanistan, he said that China was its neighbour and their interests in peace and stability were inevitable. “China is building an economic corridor and the Gwadar port would facilitate the Central Asian Republics who are part of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, so their interest is natural,” he maintained.

With regard to Pakistan’s role in US-China ties, he said that Pakistan had always been historically acting as a bridge-builder and always played a positive role. He said that the US-China closeness would have been naturally beneficial. The foreign minister said that Pakistan was a friend to both China and the US.

“Beijing stood with us through thick and thin and its support has been consistent,” he said, adding these bilateral ties were public centric. He categorically said that Pakistan was not looking for post-cold war camp situation. “They realized the significance of ties with the US and valued its strategic cooperation with China,” he said.

“We want to be at peace with neighbours,” he said, adding it was India that shied away from bilateral ties, it ran away from composite and comprehensive dialogue, vitiated the atmosphere and violated bilateral agreements. He said that India’s unilateral and illegal steps over Kashmir had boomeranged, as there were voices inside government in New Delhi and throughout India that such approach would not work.

To a query, he said that Pakistan was pursuing policies of geo-economy and promoting regional activity, besides, ensuring peace and stability in the region. About Saudi Arabia and Iran ties and the role of Pakistan in removing their differences, Qureshi said if there was improvement in their ties, both would gain.

ISRAELI PM’S POLITICS

The foreign minister said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was playing politics to regain the lost political ground and he had to flex the muscles, to show electorates he was a strong man and meant business. He also said the world cannot shove the Palestine question under the carpet for long as it will continue resurfacing and simmering.

“I think, you cannot shove Palestinians question under the carpet for too long. It will continue resurfacing, the way you look the other way, it will continue simmering,” he said. The foreign minister termed the Israeli aggression against the innocent Palestinians as barbaric, inhuman and uncalled for, saying that the excessive use of force was unacceptable which triggered the crises.

About the ceasefire, he said that he was very happy about the ceasefire and hoped it would hold. During 2014, the ceasefire did not hold but he thought it would hold now, he said. He said that international law and humanitarian laws were violated, and the democracies in the West will not overlook the human issue. He said that the public pressure was building up worldwide against Israeli’s aggression and attacks.

GLOBAL POWER

To a query, he replied the governments responded later but the people reacted first which was a qualitative change. Israel had never been expecting reaction in its mixed cities resided by Arabs and Jews, etc who had been confronting each other in Israel which was an unprecedented development, he opined. About US reaction to the conflict, he observed that they were slow, they should have acted and reacted sharply.

“They could have saved lives, as this is an experienced administration and one was expecting quick reaction from them,” he said, adding that the slow reaction gave the impression that they were not prepared to deal with such a situation. He said that the Democratic party in US had always spoken about the human rights.

To another question, he said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had told him that extensive diplomatic efforts were underway over the conflict.  “Now, it’s time for them to demonstrate and show to the world that US believes in human rights.” He elaborated the US cannot remain indifferent, ‘they are a global power and they could not look the other way. “They have the responsibilities.”

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Disclaimer: FM says Pakistan’s interests lie in peace with India, peace in ‘sovereign’ Afghanistan - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view

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