Qureshi urges multi-level people-to-people contacts

Foreign minister says Pakistan not bothered by US-India ties, urges contact between both sides of Pak-Afghan border.

Express November 13, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday underlined the need for multi-level contacts between the peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to better understand each other’s viewpoints.

Inaugurating a two-day conference, “Pakistan-Afghanistan: Towards Mutual Security, Stability and Trade”, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Qureshi also stressed the need for establishing such contacts between parliamentarians on both sides of the border.

Earlier, in his welcome remarks, the Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Ambassador Tanvir Ahmad Khan, gave a brief overview of historical ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the common links of religion, culture, ethnicity and geography that bind the two nations together.

He also shed light also on the importance of frequent consultations between lawmakers and opinion-makers of the two neighbouring states and how this conference was an ideal platform for an exchange of ideas. The head of the Afghan delegation, the presidential adviser on home security and vice chair D&R commission, Muhammad Masoom Stanekzai, in his initial statement, explained how relations between the two countries had progressed in the past two years which had opened new avenues of cooperation between them.

Speaking on the occasion, German Ambassador to Pakistan Michael Koch highlighted his country’s role as a friend of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The first session was co-chaired by Senator Hamed Gialani (Afghanistan) and Senator Salim Saifullah Khan (Pakistan).

Meanwhile in Lahore, Foreign Minister Qureshi downplayed US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to India, saying that Pakistan was not the least bit bothered by their growing relations.

He said both Pakistan and India have their own interests and Pakistan is fully aware of fulfilling its interests in terms of the Pakistan-US friendship.

The foreign minister expressed concern over India’s move for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and added that it would have a negative impact on the balance of power in the region.

“Pakistan’s opposition to India’s move is in line with its stance regarding expansion and reforms in the world body,” he said while talking to the media at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore. Referring to US backing New Delhi’s bid for UNSC’s permanent seat, he said, “We are of the view that any unilateral support, if not based on deep thinking, would affect the peace and stability of the region.”

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2010.

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