Record of the Press Briefing in Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Foreign Policy priority is to have the best of relations with our neighbours. As part of the focused regional outreach, the President visited Urumqi and Tajikistan and the Prime Minister visited Kazakhstan over the past two weeks.

The Prime Minister will visit Iran from 11-13 September 2011 where he will hold talks with the Iranian leadership and visit Tehran, Gilan and Meshed.

At Urumqi, President Asif Ali Zardari made a keynote address at the China-Eurasia Economic Forum. In his address the President underscored the importance of regional economic integration, regional connectivity and of Asia-Europe corporate sector cooperation.

He also had a detailed and substantive meeting with the Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang. He also met important leaders of the Chinese corporate sector.

The President participated in the Quadrilateral Summit of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan at Dushanbe on 2nd September, 2011. The Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of this important Summit forms a landmark in the region’s efforts to build an edifice of peace, stability and shared prosperity on the sure and enduring foundations of multifarious collaboration spanning the economic, commercial, scientific and cultural fields.

The leaders of the four countries agreed to take measures aimed at enhancing regional trade and launching joint projects in energy, transport, communications and infrastructure development. Enhancing regional connectivity through joint projects for road, rail and air links and establishing an energy grid in the region were some of the important themes of the Summit.

The four countries agreed to take collective action to deal with challenges common to the region, including drug trafficking, trans-border organized crime, extremism and terrorism are a common scourge of the region.

The Summit expressed its support for the process of national reconciliation undertaken by the Afghan Government. Pakistan will host the next Quadrilateral Summit in Islamabad.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has concluded a two-day visit of Kazakhstan where he held substantive discussions with President Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Karim Massimov.

The two sides agreed to establish Foreign Minister level consultative mechanism to steer bilateral cooperation in trade, energy, infrastructure development and regional connectivity.

The Iranian Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Ali Akbar Salehi is currently in Islamabad for the meeting of the Joint Economic Commission which is led from our side by Minister Finance. The Iranian Foreign Minister has met the Prime Minister and will call on the President later today.

He held talks with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The Iran-Pakistan Joint Economic Commission aims at strengthening bilateral economic relations and this meeting of the JEC will provide important substantive inputs into the visit by the Prime Minister to Iran.

High on priority in this regard, are enhancing transportation and communication links, and important projects in the energy sector as well as enhancing mutually beneficial economic cooperation and trade including Preferential Tariff Arrangements.

Questions – Answers Session

Q. What is Pakistan’s reaction to the Indian designs to get the NATO missile shield system?

A. Pakistan is for strategic stability in South Asia. Anything that is contrary to this is a matter of concern. In the Pakistan-India Foreign Minister’s meeting it was decided to hold meetings of the Working Groups on Conventional and Nuclear CBMs that cover all such issues.

Q. How would you respond to the recent report that in the Indian Lok Sabha a question was raised by an MP regarding infrastructure-building activities undertaken by China in the Azad Kashmir. The Indian Defence Minister told the Lok Sabha in response that India had conveyed its concerns to China that these activities should be ceased. Your comments?

A. The development of any region in Pakistan or in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir is the sovereign right of this country and that of Azad Jammu and Kashmir itself. We appreciate the fact the China is taking interest in the development in areas that require it both in Pakistan or in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. No one should object to the socio-economic development of Pakistan and AJK. We appreciate the invaluable assistance given by China for development.

Q. We had unprecedented floods in Pakistan last year and are facing the same situation this year again. The European Union had offered Pakistan duty free access to its markets on 70 items as a measure of flood relief. India blocked the passage of this measure in the WTO. I have learnt that the Indian government has promised to withdraw its opposition to this measure. Can you please update us if this is true?

A. Our Commerce Minister is expected to visit New Delhi soon. We have been in contact on the WTO issue with India. I am confident that this matter will be resolved satisfactorily.

Q.I have a question regarding Pak-US Relations. You have often referred to operational difficulties in cooperation with the US. Do you think that with the arrest of Al-Mauritani, the Al-Qaeda leader, these operational problems have been solved. Can we say that the relationship is back on track in operational terms?

A. Yes, there are strategic convergences between Pakistan and the US. On the specific event that you are referring to and whether it illustrates that the difficulties at the operation level have been smoothed out, you can yourself look at the statements that have come from Washington. These statements reflect a positive message about the relationship between the two countries at all levels.

Q. There is a lot of talks about the End Game in Afghanistan. In October or November there will be a meeting of countries neighbouring Afghanistan about negotiating this End Game. The Iranian Foreign Minister is visiting Pakistan. Has this particular issue been discussed with him?

A. Obviously, when the Foreign Minister met the Iranian Foreign Minister, there were discussions on all issues, bilateral, regional and global. I am not privy to the details of the discussions. I can assure you that Pakistan looks forward to the meeting to be held in Istanbul which will include representation from all the regional countries.

Q. Would you comment on the Indian media reports that Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) is responsible for yesterday’s terrorist attacks in New Delhi and that this terrorist organization is based in Pakistan?

A. When the news of the terrible bombing in New Delhi came yesterday, both the President and the Prime Minister condemned it and conveyed their sympathies to the families of those affected by the bombing as well as to the Indian leadership. As far as that particular comment in the Indian media, even the Indian Home Minister in his address to the Indian Parliament yesterday said that they had no information on the source of these attacks.

It is best not to indulge in baseless speculation. It may be easy to speculate but it is best to take a more mature attitude which we appreciate has been taken by the Indian Home Minister.

Q. I would like your input on whether Pakistan has done any assessment of how the 9/11 incident and the subsequent US imposed war on terror has impacted Pakistan over the last 10 years. Have you done any assessment on what we have lost over the last decade and what we foresee in the future?

A. The fact is that Pakistan is one country that has been the most affected by terrorism. Pakistan suffers terrorism on daily basis you can see what happened in Quetta yesterday for example. Pakistan is committed to eliminate terrorism because it is in our national interest.

There is consensus in Pakistan that people have suffered enough from terrorism and that they want peace, prosperity and development. That is the future vision of the Government and the people of Pakistan.

Q.I would like to know the technical difficulties being faced in the WTO over the grant of preferential market access to Pakistan in the EU market. Secondly, what is Pakistan’s stand on the situation in Libya now that the Libyan Embassy in Islamabad has hoisted the rebel flag?

A.As you know, the WTO works on the basis of consensus. All issues need to be thrashed out. We appreciate the wide support that we have for the waiver.

With regard to Libya, let me just state that Pakistan enjoys close brotherly relations with the Libyan people. We have expressed total solidarity with the Libyan people. Our Embassy in Libya is functional.

We continue to be guided by the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of states.

Q. Two days ago, four Pakistanis were arrested in Saudi Arabia. Has our Embassy in Saudi Arabia talked to the Saudi authorities about this incident?

A. On an issue that relates to Pakistanis abroad, the concerned Mission approaches the host government to find out the details of the incident and to see what assistance can be provided. I will have to look into the specific incident that you have referred to.

Q. The Joint Statement issued in Dushanbe after the Quadrilateral Summit says that the next summit will be held in Pakistan. When exactly will this meeting be held and has the Russian President assured that he will visit Pakistan next year when this meeting is held?

A. All four countries have always been represented by their top leaders in meetings of the Quadrilateral whether in Dushanbe or Sochi. They are committed to the quadrilateral process. Our hope and expectation is that when the next Quadrilateral Summit is held, all four leaders will be present. As for specific dates, I can only give you details once they are worked out.

Q. What is the response from Kabul about the children who were kidnapped from Pakistan and taken to Afghanistan?

A. Our Embassy in Kabul is in contact with the Afghan Foreign Ministry as well their Interior Ministry. They are working hard to see as what is the best modality to secure the release of the children. The early return of the children is the foremost priority.

Q.Is there a deadline being set for their release?

A. We hope that they will be released. There are no deadlines.

For more information, contact:
Syed Haider Ali Jafri
Personal Secretary
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 921 0335 and 9056604