- Presenting 'Year End Review', foreign minister says Pakistan proactively and consistently advanced diplomatic objectives
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that in 2021 Pakistan cemented its role as a regional pivot with concrete and tangible actions to establish a reputation for responsibility, reliability and friendship.
Presenting the 'Year End Review of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' at a news conference in Islamabad on Monday, the minister said that Pakistan proactively and consistently advanced its diplomatic objectives on a range of diplomatic fronts, both bilaterally and multilaterally in 2021.
"We have consolidated friendships and further strengthened bilateral relations with major powers and key partners across all regions," he said, quoted in a statement by the Foreign Office.
"Led by the Prime Minister, Pakistan has continued to be a leading voice at multilateral forums with strong advocacy on issues of sustainable and equitable development, climate change, debt relief, corruption & illicit financial flows, and Islamophobia," Qureshi said.
While talking about Afghanistan, the foreign minister said that the developments presented a major challenge to Pakistan as the immediate neighbour has historically suffered the most from the consequences of instability.
"Post August 15, Pakistan played a pivotal role in the safe evacuation of over 80,000 individuals across 42 nationalities, consisting of diplomats, international NGO workers, the media and many, many others. Our officers worked day and night to make this happen," he said.
"This is what a responsible nation does. We played our part. Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged Rs5 billion aid to Afghanistan, the first consignments of which have already started."
Qureshi further said that Pakistan geared its diplomacy in advocating and garnering regional and international consensus on the need for constructive and sustained engagement with the new interim authorities in Afghanistan.
"This included the establishment of the six country format of immediate neighbours of Afghanistan on Pakistan’s initiative, our participation in the Moscow format and other meetings, and the Troika Plus Meeting held in Islamabad including the interaction with the Afghan interim authorities," he said.
The FM further said that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries also agreed on provision of humanitarian assistance to the Afghans in the recently held OIC Council of Foreign Ministers conference in Islamabad.
'Complications pertaining to fencing of Pak-Afghan border'
While answering a question regarding a video circulating on social media purportedly showing Taliban fighters uprooting a portion of Pak-Afghan fence along their side of the border, the FM said that there were "some complications".
The foreign minister further said that the matter was being discussed with the Afghan Taliban government, blaming "certain miscreants" for blowing such incidents out of proportion.
Qureshi also offered India to join the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Pakistan. “Pakistan considers SAARC as an important forum. We are willing to host the 19th SAARC summit and if India has any issue in attending the summit in person then it can attend the moot virtually,” he said.
The 19th SAARC summit was originally scheduled to be held in Islamabad on November 15–19, 2016 but got “postponed” after the Uri attack on an Indian army camp in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
Following the rising diplomatic tensions in wake of the Uri attack, India announced its boycott of the Summit, on the pretext of allegations of cross-border terrorism. Later, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives also pulled out of the Summit, which led to an indefinite postponement of the Summit.
Meanwhile, regarding digital diplomacy, Qureshi shared that all 114 missions have been brought online on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram enabling greater transparency and access.
"Prime Minister Imran Khan launched ‘Automation of Power of Attorney’, corresponding to a long-held demand of overseas Pakistanis. Initially launched as a pilot project in ten Missions in the United States and the United Kingdom, this facility will be extended to all Pak Missions abroad," he said.