LAHORE: Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar paid a visit to her alma mater, the Lahore University of Management Sciences, on Monday, where she gave a briefing of sorts on Pakistan’s current foreign policy, as well as answering questions from students.
Khar had studied economics during her time at the Lahore based business school, and she shared with students how her studies were now helping her in the day to day life as a foreign minister. “Everything now is increasingly moving towards economic diplomacy so having a basic understanding of the subject has done me good.”
But soon the mood turned to serious matters. Speaking on Afghanistan, Khar regretted that over the years Pakistan had not concentrated on a ‘prosperous neighbourhod’ and said that ties with neighboring countries including Afghanistan, was in Pakistan’s interest and that peaceful ties should be established with all its neighbors. Responding to a question about Pakistan’s role in the Afghan reconciliation process, Khar said the ‘if asked’ to be a party to the Afghan led reconciliatory process, Pakistan will assist in whatever capacity possible.
She added that a ‘spill out’ affect of the instability in neighbouring countries would adversely affect the entire region.
Offering a simplistic solution to problems of diplomatic nature, Khar said that the ‘is it in Pakistan’s interest?’ question often offered easy solutions to the issues at hand. “In pursuing its goals and objectives, Pakistan wants to be a responsible global player,” she said.
Talking about Pakistan-US relations, which have sunk to their lowest in the aftermath of the Nato Salala checkpost raid, the foreign minister said, “the relationship with the US is very dear to Pakistan but not at the cost of its sovereignty.”
Commenting on drone attacks, one of which blew up a school in North Waziristan on Sunday, and has been a source of anger among many Pakistanis, she termed it as a “complex problem,” and that all diplomatic means were being utilised to address the issue.
Looking at a way forward, she hoped that ties with US will be based on common interests of both the countries, “long term relations with any super power can only be assured if it is based on mutual interest and respect.”
Referring to the recent visit of US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and his meeting with the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Khar said that there was “nothing wrong” about the nature of the meeting.
“There is a lot of ‘security element’ in our relationship with the US,” said Khar, clarifying that the meeting should not attract any undue concern, adding that every institution in Pakistan was a stakeholder, including the GHQ.
“We (the government) are in an evolutionary phase and rest assured that every institution is in its right place,” said Khar.
The Siachen issue was also addressed in the minister’s speech, saying that there can be no unilateral withdrawal of troops from Siachen. Khar added that the emphasis lay not merely on troop withdrawal, but an environment of mutual trust between the two countries was also needed.
Talking about Kashmir, Khar said it still remained a core issue that posed hurdles in improving ties between India and Pakistan and that it was time to ascertain whether the issue could be resolved militarily or at the dialogue table, “if not resolved, the Kashmir issue will continue to breed hatred among the people.”
Speaking about the proposed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Khar said that Pakistan could not afford to be selective in relations with its neighbours based on its energy demands.
Regarding the recent spate of violence in Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan, she said that it remained a matter of great concern for the government.
Talking about about the role of foreign elements in Balochistan, Khar stated that the Prime Minister had raised the issue with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting between the two in Sharm el-Sheikh, adding that while Pakistan faced ‘external conspiracies’, it was necessary for it to become strong internally, to resist the external elements.
Responding to a question regarding resumption of cricketing tie between Pakistan and India, she said much was being done to address the issue diplomatically on both sides.