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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is pinning expectations from Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s meeting with the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken today (Wednesday) in New York to pave the way for strengthening bilateral engagement and identifying ways to deepen mutual cooperation on a range of areas of mutual interest.

At the invitation of Blinken, Bilawal reached New York on Tuesday for attending the ministerial-level meeting on “Global Food Security Call to Action” to be held at the United Nations Headquarters today (Wednesday).

Speaking informally with a group of journalists, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar said that Bilawal’s visit to the United States is important both from bilateral and multilateral perspectives.

On the bilateral side, she stated that a meeting with the US Secretary of State is expected. “It will be a useful opportunity to strengthen bilateral engagement and identify ways to deepen mutual cooperation on a range of areas of mutual interest,” she added.

“Since this is our first interaction, let me share some general thoughts on how we are looking at things in the foreign policy domain. In the first place, we have made sure that it is always the national interest, that is upfront and that we are trying to promote – no personal agenda should come into play,” she stated, adding that it would also provide an opportunity to build trust and confidence that are the foundation of foreign relations.

She said that both Pakistan and the US have a lot of potential to work together on the shared and stated objectives. She added that although, the US has its interest in the region, yet Pakistan will pursue its own interest and it would like to engage with everyone.

“We need to engage extensively bilaterally and multilaterally with everyone, even with those who have the other opinion,” the Minister of State said, adding that it was important to reach out to all globally as well as in the region with a view to present Pakistan’s perspective on important global and regional situations.

She further stated that food security and climate change is another important issue on which Pakistan needs to engage with the partners including with the US.

While in New York, she said that the Foreign Minister would also raise the issue of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir during his meetings and would also appraise his counterparts from various countries about Pakistan’s stated policy and the Indian government worst human rights violations as well as the illegal “delimitation” measures in the occupied valley.

Besides, she added that the Foreign Minister will also hold meetings with his counterparts from Germany and Italy on the sidelines in New York to hold discussions on issues of mutual importance, regional and global situations, as well as bilateral relations.

The Minister of State also confirmed that Foreign Minister Bilawal will also visit China after conclusion of his trip to New York, besides attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos scheduled to be from May 22 to May 26, 2022.

She said that this is the first visit of the foreign minister and it is in the multilateral context which shows the importance Pakistan attaches to multi-laterism and the United Nations.

She said that Pakistan has always played a proactive role at multilateral forums and has a strong voice in influencing and shaping the global discourse on a host of issues, from peace and security to development, climate change and human rights.

She said that two key meetings are taking place at the United Nations headquarters in New York in which the foreign minister would be participating. First, she stated that the foreign minister will participate in the Ministerial Meeting on “Global Food Security Call to Action” to be held at the UN on 18 May.

She said that the meeting, hosted by the US, will bring together a regionally diverse group of countries including those most affected by food insecurity and those in a position to take action to address it. Around 30 countries have been invited. Ministers will speak on humanitarian needs and longer-term development efforts required to save lives and build resilience for the future, she added.

Second, she added that the foreign minister will also participate in the Open Debate of the UN Security Council on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security – Conflict and Food Security” on 19 May.

“In the two meetings, the foreign minister will highlight Pakistan’s perspective and policy priorities on food and energy security, development challenges, and issues of regional and international peace and security,” she added.

While in New York, she said that the Foreign Minister will have other important engagements on the side-lines, including possible meetings with the UN Secretary-General and President of the UN General Assembly. This will be an opportunity to brief them on issues of our interest especially Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan, she added.

She further stated that in the foreign policy domain, the current government would also make an effort to consolidate old friendships and forge new ones, besides providing stability and continuity in policies, while retaining the flexibility to adapt as required.

She added that the focus would be on the immediate neighbourhood, Afghanistan and India while keeping Kashmir as the core national interest. She said that the current government is also focusing on balanced, objective, broad-based, mutually beneficial relations with major powers, besides a wider outreach to other regions Africa, South East Asia, Central Asia with a larger focus on economic relations, trade and investment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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