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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office, Friday said that the meeting between Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had a “very clear” outcome of a mutual desire to take the relationship forward, to deepen the engagement and strengthen the relations in diverse fields focusing on enhanced cooperation in trade and investment.

Speaking at his weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar also stated that Pakistan desires to promote its relations with all major powers, including the US, China, Russia, and others in the best national interest.

Responding to a query, he said that the outcome of the bilateral meeting between Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Secretary Blinken was “very clear” and there was a mutual desire from both sides to take the relationship forward in the best interest of the two countries, besides deepening the engagement and strengthening the relations in diverse fields.

“I think what comes more prominently is to enhance cooperation in trade and investment, education and in various areas of economic cooperation. I think that’s the crux [of the discussions]. That’s the way we wanted to further expand our relations with the US,” he added.

In their bilateral meeting, he stated that Foreign Minister Bilawal and US Secretary of State Blinken reaffirmed the strong determination of Pakistan and the United States to strengthen their broad-based longstanding bilateral relations. They covered the full spectrum of Pakistan-US relations and discussed the global and the regional situation.

He added that the two sides expressed satisfaction over the ongoing bilateral engagement in the areas of trade and investment, climate, energy, health and education and underlined the need to further reinforce cooperation through dialogue and decisions at a higher level.

He further stated that significant bilateral meetings were also held on the margins in New York, including with the Foreign Ministers of Italy, and Turkey, besides with Secretary Blinken. “So, I think it was very productive being there at the UN, and being able to promote our multilateral and bilateral agendas,” he added.

In response to a question if there will be a change in the foreign policy with the new government coming into power, he said that Pakistan’s foreign policy when it comes to relations with major powers, has always been consistent. “We want balanced, objective and broad-based relations based on mutual interest, mutual benefit and mutual respect with all major powers including the US, China, Russia and others,” he said.

In that context, he added that Pakistan will continue to engage closely with the US, China and others “because we want to pursue these relationships in a very objective and balanced manner in keeping with our best national interest.”

Responding to another question about Foreign Minister Bilawal’s defending of former premier Imran Khan’s Russia visit, the spokesperson stated that the foreign minister explained the timing of the visit in a very “statesman-like” manner.

“It was a very clear response and I don’t think I need to further elaborate on it. We have taken the position which is objective, non-partisan and it is in the interest of Pakistan to promote our relations with the major powers,” he added.

About the outcome of the ongoing talks with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan, he reiterated that Pakistan’s resolve to fight terrorism remains unwavering, adding: “we shall pursue all avenues of defeating the surge of terrorism and ensuring the attainment of peace and stability in the region and the country.”

To another query if there was still any dispute over the Duran Line with Afghan interim government on the issue of fencing the border, the spokesperson said that “there is no recent problem we have encountered with regard to the fencing most of which has been completed.”

Asked to comment on the foreign minister’s recent interview in which he had used the term “Islamic extremism”, the spokesperson stated that Pakistan’s position and the country’s leadership’s position on the matter is quite clear and also internationally recognized position.

“In fact, Pakistan has pushed, that terrorism or extremism should not be associated with any religion or any culture or civilization. So, I think the foreign minister’s remarks should not be interpreted out of context,” he added.

When asked to comment on the reports that Chinese companies have stopped their work in Pakistan and have in fact returned to China after the recent terrorist attack on them in Karachi, he rejected the perception, saying it was not correct.

He said that there were news reports about the closure of Confucius Institutes in Pakistan and return of Chinese staff. However, this matter has been adequately clarified by the Chinese Embassy already, he added.

“I want to add and clarify this matter further that all Confucius Institutes in Pakistan remain operational. Online and physical classes are being held by both Chinese and Pakistani teachers,” he said.

He added that some Chinese teachers have indeed returned to China for their summer vacations. In view of the disruption of normal flight operations between Pakistan and China due to COVID prevention measures in China, he added that the Confucius Institute teachers availed a chartered flight which was bringing Chinese officials to Pakistan. The teachers would return to Pakistan after their vacations in China, he added.

Despite the heinous terrorist attack at the Karachi University on 26 April, he stated that Pakistan and China are committed to continue their normal exchanges, including educational and cultural exchanges, and are determined to not allow anyone to disrupt the “All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership” between the two countries.

When asked to comment on the Kashmir Premier League (KPL’s) invitation to Indian former skipper Virat Kohli to participate, he said that he could not comment, particularly on behalf of any Indian authorities who might have to give approval to any such invitation. “But what I can say is that Virat Kohli is a famous cricketer, he has a lot of fans in Pakistan so if he could come to play it will be good.”

About the recent measures taken by Indian government against Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik, he said that this is India’s deliberate policy of depriving the Kashmiri people of their legitimate and true representatives. He said that Pakistan will agitate the matter forcefully at all fora and take all possible actions to prevent his judicial murder.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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