A road map of collaboration and co-operation to further strengthen the strategic relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan figured prominently in the talks between Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Prince Salman, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister and the Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.
"I have intensive discussions on the road map that will set out a new vision of relationship between the two countries," said Foreign Minister Khar in an interview with a leading Saudi newspaper, adding that the roadmap was agreed upon during the visit of Prince Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah to Pakistan a few months back.
The talks between Crown Prince Salman and Khar were followed by another round of consultations between Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and the visiting Pakistani minister at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. The meeting was attended by Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dr Nizar bin Obeid Madani, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Saud Al-Kabeer, Undersecretary for Multilateral Relations; Dr Khalid Al-Jandan, Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations; Dr Yousuf bin Trad Al-Saadoon, Undersecretary for Economic and Cultural Relations; Mustafa Al-Kawther, Director of Asian Countries Department; Abdulaziz Al-Ghadeer, Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan; Mohammed Naeem Khan, Pakistani Ambassador to the Kingdom, and the minister's accompanying delegation.
In her interview, Khar said that the talks with Saudi leadership "focused mainly on the road map and on a range of bilateral and regional issues including Syria and Afghanistan." Khar, wearing a black abaya, spoke very candidly on regional and international subjects besides giving an overview of the progressively growing Riyadh-Islamabad relations with special reference to the Pakistan's presidency of the 15-member UN Security Council that began on Tuesday.
Referring to the topics that figured during the talks with Crown Prince Salman and Prince Saud, Khar said that "all issues bilateral as well as regional of mutual concerns figured during our discussions. Saudi Arabia has unique position in the Islamic world as well as on global level."
She further said that both sides have agreed that peace and stability within Afghanistan is not only important to Pakistan but also to the entire region and to the world at large. She briefed Saudi officials about the measures being taken by Pakistan for peace, progress and stability in the region and especially Pakistan's role in finding peaceful settlement of Afghan issue in accordance with the aspirations of the Afghan people.
Asked about priorities and agenda of Pakistan, which assumed presidency of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Khar said it is for the first time that Pakistan has assumed its rotational office of the UN Security Council Presidency during the present two-year term. During Pakistan's presidency, Pakistani premier and Foreign Minister Khar will attend and chair the sessions on peacekeeping and counter-terrorism respectively. She said that Pakistan, which was elected last year as a non-permanent member of the 15-member UN Security Council, will launch the UN discussions on peacekeeping, the biggest and the most prominent area of work of the organisation and one of the most important tools at the disposal of the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security.
"Many people don't know that Pakistan has contributed to the UN peacekeeping mission", she noted. In the past 52 years, Pakistan has sent 144,711 troops to 23 countries and 41 missions. "Many Pakistanis have sacrificed their lives while battling to ensure peace and security in different war-torn nations, especially in Africa," said the Pakistani foreign minister. In fact, more than 132 Pakistani peacekeepers had laid down their lives in the cause of international peace during the missions. Terrorism, by which Pakistan has also been suffering, will be another major topic to be taken up by UNSC, she added.
On the question of a reported meeting in Islamabad that was convened to discuss the possibility of granting most favoured nation (MFN) status to India and the shift in Pakistani policy towards New Delhi, she said that "the two sides have made substantial progress in different areas including trade." "Nevertheless, the Kashmir dispute still remains the core issue," said Khar, while advocating for the inclusion of Kashmiris in the negotiation process. Prince Saud hosted a lunch for the visiting Pakistani foreign minister and the accompanying delegation at the Foreign Ministry.