Foreign Secretary’s remarks at the Atlantic Council- Washington DC

Washington DC, June 04, 2015 (PPI-OT):

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning.

I am delighted to be here today and to have this opportunity to proffer some thoughts on a subject of interest to all of us.

This is my first opportunity to speak at the Atlantic Council, which I consider a privilege.

The Atlantic Council has been a leader in conducting and disseminating scholarly research and stimulating intellectual vigour for policy analysis.

I have followed Atlantic Council’s publications since my days here as a young diplomat back in 1990s.

I am sure that the new, young and bright team in the South Asia program will continue to meet the high standards that Mr. Shuja Nawaz has set over the past years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is never a dull moment in a Foreign Secretary’s life; and, every day, you wake up to manage a new development bringing in with it fresh challenges and opportunities.

The spectacular speed of information and analysis sharing, that flows from such international developments makes us all partners in policymaking.

And before real decisions get taken anywhere- all that you have said on the social media- matters!

So I see our interests, concerns, hopes and dreams all coming together in a shared space, making conversations like these all the more critical.

Distinguished Guests!

I often recall the last days of the cold war when we hoped that the world was about to usher in to a new era of peace and harmony. Instead, what we have witnessed in the past two decades is a series of crises from financial meltdowns to terrorism and violent extremism. Old disputes remain unresolved and yet new and more complex conflicts have emerged. The traditional concept of nation state is under stress at places and the multilateral world remains unable to grapple with issues created by conflicts, new technologies and climate.

We all know that the global economic centre of gravity is shifting to Asia, which hosts countries with largest populations, some of the biggest economies, fastest growth rates, some of the most lucrative trading corridors, over 40% of global GDP; and not to miss, some of the most worrying global hotspots, longstanding unresolved conflicts that unfortunately continue to simmer an absent regional security architecture.

Pakistan is affected by all shades of these developments. We have a population of nearly 180 million with tremendous economic potential. At the same time, long-standing conflicts in our region have made our journey to development tardy with obstacles.

The world around us today and our sense of Pakistan’s desirable place in it, informs our strategic perspective for the future. We are competing to find room among the new emerging markets and achieve social and economic indicators that could represent our true potential. – That, Ladies and Gentlemen, would be our best contribution to our own future, our region and the world.

The nations that have turned the tide in improving quality of lives of their people could do so in a peaceful neighbourhood and under internal stability. Our quest to achieve enduring peace, security and beneficial development for our people also starts with initiatives to develop these necessary fundamentals.

Therefore, Pakistan has aimed for a conscious and well-considered strategic shift, pivoting the policy on three conspicuous strands:

1. Internal Peace, Security and Cohesion;

2. Building a peaceful neighbourhood;

3. Rebalancing between geo-strategic and geo-economic priorities with a sharper focus on economic diplomacy;

4. Strengthening partnerships with governments, international organizations and overseas communities.

Within the framework of this overarching strategy, we are working to revive the economy, overcome energy shortages, combat terrorism and violent extremism, expand trade and investment cooperation and foster good neighbourly relations.

This is clearly a tall order for a country confronting a range of challenges both internal and external. In particular, decades of violence in our region has deeply affected our society placing economy in distress and regional relationships strained.

Despite these challenges, over the past two years, the government has remained focused in single-mindedly pursuing the multifaceted agenda for revival and reinvigoration of Pakistan.

The growing economic stability and improved internal security situation are the first concrete manifestation of this policy shift. Today Pakistan’s economic upturn is being noted worldwide. Our budget deficit is at a record low. Tax receipts have risen in response to efforts to broaden the base and cut exemptions.

Economic indicators suggest an upswing in economic activity with increased consumer spending, not seen in last many years. Foreign-exchange reserves have more than doubled. Already both Moody’s and S and P have improved Pakistan’s credit rating from first negative to stable and now positive.

The IMF predicts that Pakistan’s economy will grow by 4.7% next year, the fastest rate in eight years.

But we need higher growth rates in the coming years to substantially overcome poverty challenges.

There is adequate economic potential and human resource capacity to support such a growth trajectory. Foreign investment, expanded trade with overseas markets and spurring regional economic connectivity can help Pakistan sustain such a growth trajectory.

And this brings us to the critical issue of security as the founding step of this development ladder.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

On the internal security front, our military operations in tribal areas have entered a critical phase since last year. The Operation Zarb-e-Azb is aimed at clearing all territory in Pakistan from elements that aim to terrorize Pakistan or its neighbours.

Our latest operations in North Waziristan and Khyber agencies have been a big success and nearly 90% of the areas have been cleared. The core of infamous TTP has been dismantled with its leadership on the run in Afghanistan. Some remaining high profile leaders of Al-Qaeda were killed or captured in the last one year.

Operations are now underway to clearing the remaining and geographically most treacherous territory. Coordinated law enforcement operations have also been underway across Pakistan to monitor, track and arrest all those challenging the writ of the state.

The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) and National action Plan (NAP) today are an embodiment of the complete national political and institutional consensus to confront terrorists physically, intellectually and financially. Consequently, we have succeeded in dismantling many sleeper cells and arrested members of banned organizations involved in attacking minorities and civil society.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Security challenges in South Asia are not unique only to a single country and the solution too cannot be pinned on a single country. Terrorist and illicit networks today thrive across regions and cultures. They have a symbiotic relationship, which makes a zero sum view of security untenable for achieving peace.

We can all win or We will all loose!

Pakistan’s efforts to achieve security have started at home. We are determined not to allow our territory to be used against any of our neighbours. We expect the same from neighbours as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen

To this end, we are striving to make similar progress on the external front especially in expanding our relationship with our key neighbours.

The most encouraging story that I can share with you is our growing partnership with the new Afghan government. We were privileged to receive President Ghani in Pakistan and our leadership has also maintained close contacts with President Ghani and the CEO Abdullah Abdullah.

There is tremendous untapped potential in all fields of cooperation with Afghanistan. We have started by taking quiet but profound steps that have already helped build confidence for the future. We are working with Afghanistan to lay the foundation for an enduring and of mutually beneficial cooperation in security, defence, trade and investment.

There is a lot that remain to be done!

We support an Afghan led reconciliation that could lead to enduring peace. A successful reconciliation in Afghanistan can provide stimulus for managing other intractable issues that directly or indirectly contribute to instability such as return of millions of Afghan refugees, narcotics and cross-border terrorist networks.

We sincerely hope that the international community will continue to undertake its responsibilities in Afghanistan and not turn a page as it did in the past.

Repeating history risks repeating all of it!

On its part, Pakistan is determined to exercise zero tolerance for violent extremism as demonstrated by the ISIL. We are equally determined to work with our Afghan brothers to ensure that our region is safe from this phenomenon.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

We wish to normalize our relationship with India. Our sense of a normalized relationship includes trade normalization, people-to-people exchanges as these normally exist between countries, bilateral mechanisms for nuclear risk reduction, confidence building, crises management and conflict resolution. We have made consistent overtures to India to start the dialogue process, which could help both the countries embark on a journey for a healthy and normal relationship.

One of the key pillars of governments’ foreign policy is to support and encourage regional connectivity. The most promising pillar of this policy is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Despite our long-standing friendship with China, there remains tremendous potential in our bilateral economic cooperation. Development of the Chinese western region and emerging connectivity between China and the Central Asia holds great promise for economic connectivity of south and central Asia as well.

There are other regional economic projects as well that remain on our agenda, these include TAPI, CASA-1000 and improved trading partnership between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. We have also improved road and rail links with Iran with a view to enhance economic cooperation to the extent possible under the circumstances.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Within this scheme of things, the US remains our critical partner and there are strong and enduring bases for this partnership to continue in the future.

Both Pakistan and the US wish to strengthen economic connectivity between south and central Asia: we have strong convergences in fighting terrorism and working together to stop the spread of violent extremism espoused by the ISIL, Peace and stability in Afghanistan is in our mutual interest, and the benefits accruing from a stable and secure region benefit the US as much as they will benefit us.

We are now on a stable and growing trajectory with the US. In our view, Pakistan and the US have always benefited when they work together. We are grateful for the US support to Pakistan in a broad range of areas. For many years, the US Congress has been supportive of building Pakistan’s capacity and helping us overcome our challenges. The results are visible on the ground.

The US has helped add over 1,400 Megawatt to our electricity grid and the USAID is supporting one of the largest Fulbright scholarship program for Pakistan-especially for women. The US assistance in building infrastructure in remote areas such as FATA will leave an enduring impact in stimulating economic development in an area that had been infested with extremist ideologies for decades. Above all, the recent successes that we have achieved in our counter-insurgency operations in FATA were made possible by the critical capabilities that US helped us put in place.

We wish to express our thanks to the US Congress and to the American people for this support. For the future, we hope that people-to-people exchanges would become the centrepiece of our relationship with trade, investment, education and research as its driving links. Enhanced trade is the quickest and the most beneficial mechanism to achieve that. While recognizing that US assistance has been beneficial in supplementing our own efforts for economic development, we wish our long term partnership to be anchored on trade instead of aid.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

A growing economy and regaining our national space from networks that imperilled our security has been the hallmark of our work over the past two years.

We are seriously and sincerely invested in building relationships with our neighbours and deepening our partnership with the United States for the long-term.

Peace, development and human prosperity is achievable in South Asia and that remains our North Star for the future.

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