CHICAGO: Despite the bad press that has dogged the Pakistani delegation during their trip, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar appeared upbeat and sounded positive about the outcome of the attendance of the Pakistani delegation, headed by President Asif Zardari, at the Nato Summit in Chicago.
Speaking to Express News, Khar said, “When there’s a debate about Afghanistan taking place, in your opinion, should a country like Pakistan, which is a responsible regional player, an important neighbour, and a country that has huge stakes in peace and stability in Afghanistan, not participate?”
Khar said that Pakistan had the highest stakes among the 60 countries that participated in the summit. “The spillover effect of instability in Afghanistan is instantaneous in Pakistan, and if there is stability in Afghanistan, the effect of that in Pakistan too should be instantaneous. I will completely disagree with anyone at all who says that Pakistan should not participate in such a forum.”
She added that Pakistan was an important neighbour of Afghanistan and a responsible regional player.
Khar also took umbrage to how the Nato summit was debated in Pakistan. “The US side, the Nato secretary general and the government said that this was an unconditional invite.”
However, she added, that there was a debate on whether this was conditional, and when we would make an announcement about the re-opening of the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs).
“We have proven that we are going to conduct foreign policy in a very transparent manner and that should give people confidence and that we are trying to move forward in a transparent manner.”
“What we need to do is engage with the world, in giving our perspective on what the reality checks are and what the challenges are. For that you need extensive engagement with the rest of the world, and I think Chicago provided an excellent opportunity for that.”
“This is the question for Pakistan – what message do we want to give the world? Are we an enabler, a facilitator, a responsible country on the road that leads to Afghan stability, or do we want to give the message that we are a blocker, a disabler, to the international efforts towards peace and stability. We want to give a very strong message that the Afghan people’s future is important to us, that we would like to enable peace and stability in Afghanistan to the best of our abilities, and we have been doing that at great cost to Pakistan,” she said.
Responding to a question, Khar said that no hostile attacks were made on Pakistan during speeches and remarks at the Nato summit.
On the matter of the GLOCs, Khar said that the Nato partners attach a great deal of importance to the supply routes and “they will, because it makes a difference to them. That’s why we have said this in Pakistan as well, the narrative needs to go into a positive zone [in Pakistan], that the issue of Nato supply routes is not about US-Pakistan relations, it affects relations with 50 odd countries that are part of Nato and are partners.”
Khar highlighted that during Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s interview on CNN, he said that they were working in the “friendliest of environments” that have been possible. She added that Prime Minister Gilani would also be visiting Kabul soon.
Speaking about relations between the US and Pakistan, Khar said, “We are engaging with them on all issues, nothing is off the table, so we have to move on each of the issues. We have started a useful engagement process, and want to achieve good results for good US-Pakistan bilateral relations, Pakistan’s relations with Nato countries and its relations with Afghanistan.”
On the issue of US-operated drone operation in Pakistan, Khar said that Pakistan’s position remains clear, that they [drones] are “unlawful, illegal and counterproductive”.
“What we need to emphasise even more is how they are counterproductive. Drones are a means to an end, they are there to achieve a certain objective, so if you can achieve those objectives with different tools, which are acceptable to you and me, isn’t that a better tool? So we are trying to look for tools that are mutually acceptable. There is a lot of work that we have done together, and I am fairly optimistic that we can formulate a roadmap to lead to a way where drones are not required in Pakistan.”
Khar said that they had good dialogues with every major player in the US administration that they met on the sidelines of the Nato Summit, and that they has a productive meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She added that they emphasised the importance of the parliamentary review and were moving forward on the basis of its recommendations.
Khar said that engagement with the US would continue on many levels in Washington and Islamabad. “I’m a bit assured by the fact that I see a commitment on both sides to make it work. I am more confident than I was before that we can make it work.”
The foreign minister said that they were not compromising on Pakistan’s national interests, and unlike what happened in the past, when they would reach a decision, it would be made public.
When asked if it was a mistake by Pakistan to not attend the Bonn conference on Afghanistan in December 2011, after the Salala incident, Khar said, “I will never as a foreign minister choose to disassociate myself with any international discussion. However, at that time Salala was a great national tragedy, and in many ways it was crossing multiple red lines in Pakistan-US relationship.”
She said that Pakistan’s sovereignty must be respected, and there was a consensus that not attending the Bonn conference was a way to send that message to the world.
“I think it was the need of the hour. But that was the need of the hour then, its always an evolving situation.” She said that Pakistan wanted to a closure on the episode and that an apology would help in achieving it.
When asked if they had anything to announce for the future, Khar said that it was a continued engagement process, and that they were in touch on various levels. She added that Pakistan was given the honour of being invited at the conference, and was the only neighbour of Afghanistan that had been invited.
“I think we should take things positively, and not go into conspiracy theory mode thinking that everything is happening against Pakistan, we have to make it ourselves; our first responsibility is to ourselves, and to protect our national interest and then pursue a track that protects it.”