Pakistan's foreign policy will be made at Foreign Office, says Qureshi

My primary policy is Pakistan first, says newly sworn-in foreign minister

Kamran Yousaf August 20, 2018
Shah Mehmood Qureshi's first address as foreign minister SCREENGRAB


The country’s foreign policy will be formulated in the Foreign Office in line with the national interest and “in consultation with other institutions”, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Monday.

Outlining the country’s new foreign policy under Prime Minister Imran Khan, he insisted that the new external policy would revolve around the principle of ‘Pakistan first’.

Speaking with reporters after he was sworn in as the foreign minister, Qureshi said that the new foreign policy would “begin and end at Pakistan”, implying that national interest would reign supreme.

Qureshi, who also served as foreign minister during the previous PPP government in 2008-2013, said that steps would be taken to bring the country out of international isolation.

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Without specifying, he insisted that some ‘forces’ had pushed Pakistan into isolation.

He said: “The chief diplomat, the foreign minister, the face of the country, wasn’t appointed for four and a half years. I would give priority to national consensus with a bipartisan approach.”

He said that he planned to reach out to former foreign ministers, including Khawaja Asif, Hina Rabbani Khar and retired diplomats to seek their input for steering the country’s foreign policy in the right direction.

Responding to an oft-repeated question, the foreign minister insisted that the country’s foreign policy would be formulated in the Foreign Office “in consultation with other institutions”.

He maintained that dialogue was the only way forward for India and Pakistan to make any progress on contentious issues.

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“My second message is for India, we are (an) atomic power. We are aware of our issues. In my opinion, we have no solution other than dialogue. There is no other immediate solution. We have to accept realities. Kashmir is an issue, it is a reality. Both countries have acknowledged this. Unfortunately, former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee is no more, but we need to hold uninterrupted dialogue,” Qureshi said.

The foreign minister said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the new PM, besides giving a positive message of dialogue.

Taking everyone on board would be part of the new policy. “We are all united in (safeguarding) the national interest.”

Expressing his intention to visit Kabul, he said that it was to move forward on a bilateral agreement.

He said both countries shared a common future and geography, and “we have to work together and begin our long journey”.

Stressing the need for improving Pakistan-US relationship on the basis of mutual respect and equality, Qureshi said he would listen to the US concerns while presenting them with Pakistan’s viewpoint.

Qureshi also said: “The Chinese ambassador has been in touch with me. There has been stress on infrastructure, I would like to discuss the next phase and how to enter into the socioeconomic phase.”

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Also on Monday, the Charge d’Affaires of the Netherlands Embassy was summoned to the Foreign Office and a strong protest was lodged against the announcement by the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party and parliamentarian Geert Wilders to hold a competition of blasphemous caricatures.

Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam.

The federal cabinet also condemned this plan and termed it an abominable and reprehensible act.

The ambassador of Pakistan in The Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva have also been directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary-General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies.

Former Foreign Minister had written to the OIC Secretary General, seeking his leadership in this matter, who in turn wrote to the Dutch Foreign Minister on behalf of the OIC, protesting against this event.

The matter would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the sidelines of the 73rd session of United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2018. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will lead the Pakistan delegation to this meeting and raise the issue of blasphemous caricatures.

The Government of Pakistan would continue to vigorously pursue the matter with the Dutch government and raise it at the relevant international fora from preventing this abhorrent act taking place.

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