Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Monday ruled out a unilateral withdrawal of troops from Siachen while speaking at her alma mater, the Lahore University of Management and Sciences (Lums).
(Khar graduated from Lums in 1999 with a BSc in economics).
What is important is not just withdrawing troops, she said, but that the withdrawal happens when both countries trust each other. Talking about Kashmir, Khar said the issue was still a hurdle in improving ties between India and Pakistan. She added that it was time to determine how to resolve the issue.
Asked about Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours, Khar said it was in Pakistan’s interest to establish peaceful ties with each of its neighbours. Any instability in the neighbouring countries, she said, would result in a “spill out” effect that would affect the entire region. Khar, while replying to a question about what role Pakistan will play in the Afghanistan peace process, said that “if asked to be a party” to an Afghan-led reconciliatory process, Pakistan will assist in whatever capacity possible.
The foreign minister had a simple solution to foreign policy problems: ask “Is it in Pakistan’s interest?” She added, “In pursuing its goals and objectives, Pakistan wants to be a responsible global player.”
She described drone attacks as a “complex problem”, saying that the relationship with the US, though valued, could not continue “at the cost of [Pakistan’s] sovereignty”. “A long term relationship with any super power can only work if it is based on mutual interest and respect,” Khar said while talking about the recent tension in Pak-US ties.
Asked about US special envoy Marc Grossman’s meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Khar said the meeting should not cause any undue concern. Every national institution is a stakeholder, including the GHQ, she said.
Discussing “the role of foreign elements” in Balochistan, Khar stated that PM Gillani had raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting between the two premiers at Sharm el-Sheikh. However, Khar added, it was necessary for Pakistan to become “strong internally” to resist threats from external elements.
On a lighter note, the minister told the students that studying economics as a major had served her well. “Everything is moving towards economic diplomacy so having an understanding of the subject has helped me.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.
Correction: In an earlier version of the story, the picture caption incorrectly read ‘cannot’ as ‘can not’. The error has been rectified.