India escalating tensions for political reasons: Qureshi

Foreign minister says fixing economy 'utmost priority'

Our Correspondents March 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday said India is escalating tensions with Pakistan for the sake of its own domestic politics.

"Pakistan desires peace in the region and Prime Minister Imran Khan, despite Indian aggression, released the captured Indian pilot as a goodwill gesture. However, India is escalating tensions for political reasons," Qureshi said.

The foreign minister was chairing the third meeting of the advisory council on foreign policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Secretary Foreign Affairs Tehmina Janjua, former diplomats and experts of international relations attended the session.

The meeting discussed tensions between Pakistan and India in the wake of February 14 Pulwama attack and the security situation in the region. The meeting also deliberated over the ways to highlight at international forums the Indian atrocities in the held Kashmir.

Meanwhile, addressing the Business Leaders Summit in the federal cabinet Qureshi said the utmost priority of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government "is to fix the economy", stressing that the government was working on economic diplomacy to enhance exports and bring investment to the country.

The minister termed peace imperative to pursue the development agenda for the region and emphasised the need for holding dialogue with India to resolve all outstanding issues.

Qureshi told the participants that the country faced economic problems, when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government took over.

Current account deficit had soared to 6.6% and the debt burden of the last two governments had increased from Rs6 to 30 trillion, he added.

"Having been in office for six months, we faced many economic challenges," Qureshi stated, adding that the government had an agenda which it wanted to implement in order to meet these challenges. "Improving the economy is the main agenda of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was focused on attracting foreign investment, he continued. Stressing that the government was working on economic diplomacy to enhance exports and bring investment to the country, he said: "Pakistan can take advantage of its geo-strategic location."

"[The signing of] $20 billion development projects with Saudi Arabia is another milestone towards achieving economic stability," he said. "I also know the interest the government of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) had shown in investing in Pakistan," he added. "Qatar also plans to invest in Pakistan's food processing industry."

The minister stressed that the current leadership had a clear vision for the country's progress. "The priorities of this government have been spelt out clearly," he said. "The government is very clear on its priorities, we [PTI] do not have Swiss bank accounts and Canadian passports," he continued.

"Pakistan is not a poor country, but lacked proper administrative mechanism, which led to approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the past. We want all Pakistanis to enjoy full opportunities of economic development and be proud citizens of the country."

Qureshi told the summit that the government was taking initiatives to improve trade relations with neighbouring countries. He confirmed that a large delegation of Malaysian investors will accompany Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed during his visit to Pakistan later this month.

"The Malaysian prime minister is due to visit Pakistan on March 23, with a delegation of different companies, while firms from Qatar and UAE have also expressed interest to invest in different sectors," the minister told the participants.

Qureshi also expressed his gratitude to European Union and European Parliament for their support to Pakistan, saying that EU's High Representative on Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini would arrive in Islamabad on March 26 and they would sign several accords on Pak-EU strategic cooperation.

The minister said that several opportunities were lost because of the wave of terrorism in the country. However, the armed forces eliminated the menace of terrorism and extremism, while the national leadership reached a consensus to launch the National Action Plan (NAP).

"The plan could not be implemented completely in the past," he said. "But it will be now. All the parliamentary leaders will be invited to the Foreign Office to develop consensus on this [implementation of NAP] matter," he added.

Qureshi highlighted the need for establishing peace in the neighbourhood to revitalise the economy. "China is our strategic partner and we want to transform this relationship into an economic partnership. We are negotiating with China to assist us in the agriculture sector and in establishing economic zones."
Referring to the recent simmering tensions between India and Pakistan, Qureshi said that prime minister Khan reaffirmed that "Islamabad will take two steps if New Delhi takes one". However, he regretted that "a certain political party used the situation to enhance its election possibilities".

"The prime minister also wrote a letter to India's prime minister [Narendra Modi] after coming to power and urged him to resolve outstanding issues through dialogue," he said, adding that the Kartarpur corridor was "one such example of Pakistan's desire for peace".

Qureshi said that peace in Afghanistan was important to realise the dream of progress and prosperity in the region, for which Pakistan was making persistent efforts. He also said that the government was introduce a new visa regime to promote tourism, which would benefit citizens of 125 countries.

Also addressing the participants, Russian Prime Minister's Adviser on Information Technology and Digital Media Alexander Shulgin said that 60% of the global economy was on the digital media. "We need technology for wise decisions, he said, adding that Pakistan had vast opportunities in this sector.


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