Relations between Pakistan and the US remained on top of the agenda at the foreign office’s weekly briefing, with focus on the recent tensions over the November 26 Nato attack. Refuting the impression that Pakistan and the US are not on talking terms, spokesperson Abdul Basit said, “We are on speaking terms with the US and are trying to put our relations back on track.”
However, Basit also continued to emphasise that there ‘would be no compromise on ‘national integrity and sovereignty’. The spokesperson summed up the ups and downs of bilateral ties over the year, touching upon the Raymond Davis incident, the Abbottabad raid, and the Salala check-post attack.
Referring to the revival of relations between the countries, the spokesperson said the Parliamentary Committee on National Security would present its recommendations before a joint session of parliament for final approval.
Regarding Pak-China relations, the spokesman said relations with Beijing were of paramount importance in Pakistan’s foreign policy. He specifically mentioned the agreements signed during the recent visit of China’s State Councillor Dai Bingguo, including a $1.6 billion Currency Swap Agreement and renewal of a Five-Year Economic and Trade Cooperation Plan involving projects worth $14 billion. He added that there were also agreements worth $809 million for infrastructure and energy projects with China.
Replying to questions on relations between Pakistan and India, the foreign office spokesperson focused on Kashmir. He said the people of Jammu and Kashmir are against the Public Safety Act, the Disturbed Area Act and the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, adding that there ‘was hope’ the situation would improve. He spoke optimistically, adding,”We sincerely hope this dialogue process is uninterrupted and result-oriented”.
He also highlighted the bilateral talks held this week by the Working Group, which discussed new initiatives and reviewed the implementation of confidence building measures already in place. Basit added that Islamabad was waiting on the Indian response to its proposals.
Indonesian boat tragedy
Replying to a question on the death of Pakistanis in Indonesia’s East Java Sea, the spokesperson said efforts were being made to identify bodies but it is very difficult as the bodies have decomposed. An emergency cell has also been set up, in order to work on identifying nationals. Of the survivors, he said some were not interested in returning to Pakistan while two who were being facilitated by the Pakistan embassy.
Giving further details of foreign policy during 2011, the spokesperson said policy this year continued to be steered by two broad objectives; security and development. Regarding Pakistan’s relations with Russia, the spokesman said. President Asif Ali Zardari paid an official visit to the Russian Federation and that Moscow has agreed to assist Pakistan in the repair and upgradation of Pakistan Steel Mills, as well as to invest in different energy projects in Pakistan. It also plans to invest in trans-regional projects including CASA 1000 and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.
The spokesman also spoke of Pakistan’s relations with the European Union (EU) and G-8 member countries, adding that a Pakistan-EU Strategic Dialogue would be launched during EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Lady Catherine Ashton’s visit to Pakistan early next year.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2011.