Address of H.E. Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, at The Envoys Conference of SAARC and ECO Regions

Islamabad, June 11, 2015 (PPI-OT):Bismillah Irrehmanir Rahim.

Honourable Adviser,

Honourable Special Assistant,

Cabinet Ministers (if any),

Foreign Secretary,

Distinguished Envoys.

I congratulate you on your in-depth deliberations over the past three days.

Your recommendations, presented by the Foreign Secretary, will guide decisions of the Government. Your experience and expertise helps us gain traction and navigate steadily as we craft a better future for Pakistan. So I compliment you on your solid work, which will receive my full attention.

The theme of connectivity that you have chosen for the conference is most apt and timely. More than 1.9 billion people live in the regions where you represent Pakistan. This is a big chunk of world population. These regions, geographically, sit astride geopolitical fault-lines, economic and trade arteries, and rich natural and human resources.
It is your collective calling, and indeed of the Foreign Office and the entire State of Pakistan, to tap into their markets, to build cultural bridges with them, and to partner with them in our quest for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. In pursuit of our vision, anchored in the Quaid’s dictum of “peace within, and peace without”, we are working to safeguard our national interests, build a peaceful neighbourhood, spur economic and trade diplomacy and provide high quality services to the Pakistani community abroad.

You all know that Pakistan has a unique economic geography, connecting multiple countries, regions and neighbourhoods. We are determined to realize its full potential. Pakistan is a strong proponent of regional economic integration so that we can together create new opportunities for jobs, businesses, industrial production, and agricultural growth.

We need to identify and promote new regional and global agents and value chains to connect economic nodes. We believe that Pakistan is both a conduit and a destination for investment, trade, production and distribution. Informed by this compelling rationale, we have embarked on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This mega-project is a transformational, and a game changer for Pakistan and for the region. It would, in due course, also benefit adjoining and peripheral regions.

This project will build the Gwadar Port as the regional trans-shipment pivot, supported by a network of roads, railway lines, power plants, industrial zones, pipelines and fiber optic cables. The CPEC would make Pakistan a hub for trans-regional commerce and industry. I want you to use your skills and ingenuity to create greater awareness about this historic initiative, dispel misgivings about it, and harness resources that can augment our efforts.

During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan, we took momentous decisions to lock in a massive investment of US $ 46 billion to transform Pakistan’s economic landscape. At the All Parties Conference (APC) I convened on May 28th, all political parties reached consensus on this flagship initiative.

In the PSDP 2015-16we have allocated more than 300 Billion rupees for projects under CPEC which indicate our complete commitment to fast track implementation of CPEC. You are meeting at a time when Pakistan is demonstrating resilience and exuding confidence. Pakistan’s promise as an ascending nation and a lucrative market is being recognized by world capitals and global markets.

So I request you to cast off any residue of cynicism and despondency that you may have, and put your shoulder to the wheel for making Pakistan a great nation. Diplomacy is the best tool to achieve this objective. Today democracy is taking root in the country. We are reaching decisions through consultation and consensus. Institutional efficiency is being enhanced to rebuild the country.

We have taken a series of steps to consolidate macroeconomic stability, control budgetary deficit, strengthen public finances, reduce inflation, and increase foreign exchange reserves. Overall, economic growth is gaining momentum and I see investment confidence rising. This has also been independently substantiated by the World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank, UN ESCAP, and leading credit rating agencies

This is not a time for complacency but a time for intensifying our efforts. You have been placed in key positions to speak to diverse constituencies in your host countries about the bright and brightening prospects of our economy. Your efforts will help us attract foreign direct investment in small and large manufacturing sectors. As we go along, Pakistan will become the most hospitable and promising destination for investment. Please showcase this to the world.

Pakistan is now recognized as an emerging market with immense potential. The Government is according highest priority to security and energy to ensure that we continue to move on the pathway to economic revival, inclusive growth and social development. Operation Zarb-i-Azb has already taken down terrorists’ networks, disrupted their command and control system, and debilitated their supporting infrastructure. We are succeeding; but it is still a long haul, as we take on all kinds of ethnic, communal and sectarian violence. This is an all-out war against all forms of violence.

The National Action Plan, which enjoys consensus across the national spectrum, gives us the necessary framework to counter terrorism effectively and decisively. We will spare nobody as we choke financing for terrorism and sectarian violence; and disable terrorists’ logistical support systems. In this regard, we are enlisting assistance of our friendly countries. Externally-sponsored terrorism and violent extremism are grave threats to a secure and prosperous Pakistan.

The entire nation is dismayed by the recent irresponsible and, I must say, imprudent statements from the Indian political leadership. This vitiates the atmosphere and takes us farther away from our goals of regional peace and stability. We will protect our vital interests at all costs.

This message must be heard loud and clear. At the same time, we will not abandon our high moral ground because of provocations. We will continue our quest for a peaceful neighbourhood. But there should be reciprocity and acknowledgement of the overtures I have made to promote the dialogue process.

The issue of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be relegated to the back burner of history. This last Tuesday, in Dushanbe, I urged Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to play a proactive role in promoting peace in the region; and reminded him that it was incumbent on the UN Security Council to ensure early implementation of its resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have moved closer, thanks to the joint efforts being made by the leadership of the two countries. Along with President Ashraf Ghani, we have resolved to fight together our common enemy – terrorism. Last month, I told President Ashraf Ghani: “… the enemies of Afghanistan cannot be friends of Pakistan.” And there are no good and bad terrorists. We will fight them all.

We are strengthening our ties in the fields of trade, education, military training, and intelligence cooperation. We have conveyed to Afghanistan that its soil should not be used against Pakistan; and we would make sure that terrorists do not establish hideouts in our territory. Stemming cross-border violence is our shared responsibility.

We will continue to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. The Middle East is in a state of turmoil and volatility. Our appeal to the Middle Eastern countries is to move swiftly from the conflict zones to negotiations. There is no sublimity or salvation in fighting. We don’t take sides in conflicts. That said, we would stand by Saudi Arabia, our longstanding ally; and call on Houthi rebels to cease their hostilities to pave way for a peaceful resolution of all problems.

Let me now turn to SAARC and ECO. Pakistan, along with other likeminded countries, has always been a driving force to revitalize these organizations; but regrettably they are not taking off. It is time for SAARC and ECO to become connectivity backbones for South, Central and West Asia. Pakistan should continue its efforts in this regard.

We must advance our vision of economic cohesion by constructing physical infrastructure, reviving and reinforcing transportation networks, building energy corridors, and developing transit hubs. This would have a positive spillover effect and start a virtuous growth cycle and discredit the vicious cycle of strife that stalks our regions.

Pakistan will give full support to cross-regional projects focusing on energy and water security, value addition, research, science and technology, and modernization. Our line ministries and embassies must have more synergy. The practice of operating in silos must be broken.

Abroad, you are representatives of not just Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but of the entire government and the state. To get optimal results, you must enhance your contact with the Ministries of Commerce, Finance, Water and Power, Petroleum and Natural Resources, EAD, as well as with the Board of Investment and TDAP.

We must all act like one big, united family. Last but not least. Pakistani community in the countries where you are accredited should remain an absolute priority for your embassies and consulates, no matter how small or large their number is. Pakistani diaspora is an asset for us. Pakistanis have done well for themselves; and they are keen to contribute to the economic growth of Pakistan.

Expatriates who want to invest in Pakistan should be given all the facilities. Pakistanis abroad connect with Pakistan through you. They should be treated with respect and dignity, irrespective of their social status. I urge you to improve your consular and community services for them. Soft power is not just about Pakistan’s cultural exhibits, important though they are. You must also project growing economic strength of Pakistan by promoting our industrial and agricultural products and our growing competencies in the services sector.

Finally, my message to you is that this is a seminal moment for us, as a nation. It should not be wasted. Our geo-strategic and geo-economic policies should move in tandem. We should negotiate our transition to stability and development with confidence and conviction. We should leverage our pivotal location for the benefit of the people of Pakistan and the extended neighbourhood. We stand committed to our people to deliver and for that each one of you has a role to play.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Spokesman
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tell: +92-51-9205494
Fax: +92-51-9204202
Cell: +92-336-5644459