In what seems to be a strong and apparent warning to western powers, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Sunday said that Pakistan will not allow any regional country to assert its hegemony over others but vowed to seek greater cooperation with key players, including China.
“We are always ready to extend our cooperation to friends but are not ready to accept anyone’s supremacy,” he said addressing a ceremony held in connection with the Independence Day celebrations. He did not clarify though if he was referring to Washington’s attempts to influence Islamabad directly or its support for India. Last month US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, during her visit to India remarked that the US wants to see India lead the South Asian region which sparked a hostile reaction from this side of the border.
The prime minister however said that relations with the US are extremely important for Pakistan but asserted that Islamabad would never compromise its integrity for anything.
Although it is not clear what motivated the prime minister to reiterate his stance on US’ support for India, his statement comes a day after a former US presidential candidate and senior Republican Senator John McCain was in Pakistan to hold talks with the country’s political and military leadership.
Also over the weekend an American citizen was kidnapped from Lahore, an incident which is likely to add more fuel to troubled Pak-US relations strained by a series of episodes in recent months.
“We want that Pakistan’s foreign relations are instrumental in national integrity and honour,” the prime minister said, adding, “We respect the integrity and sovereignty of other countries and expect that they also respect Pakistan’s.”
In an apparent balancing act, the premier sought peaceful co-existence with India as well.
“India is our important neighbour. We want that both countries find a negotiated resolution of their pending issues so that the people of Pakistan and India can get rid of poverty, ignorance and backwardness,” he said.
Prime Minister Gilani was quick to assert Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. “No one can deny that Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan. The international community has accepted the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. We will continue to provide political, diplomatic and moral support to our brothers,” he said.
Look east, regionalism
As relations with the US deteriorate, the Pakistani leadership — both political and military — has been warming up for China, an obvious alternative. The prime minister too did not miss the opportunity to praise Sino-Pak relations.
“Our historic relations with China are of huge importance and our friendship is an important pillar of our foreign policy. The Pakistan-China friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the oceans in real terms,” he said.
That is not all, the prime minister also talked about Islamabad’s “brotherhood” with Saudi Arabia, Turkey’s continued support for the people of Pakistan and the historic and geographical bond with Iran as hallmarks of the country’s foreign policy.
“We desire restoration of peace in Afghanistan. We want to see it as a prosperous, sovereign and independent country,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.