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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday rubbished in categorical terms the debate in a section of the media about any possible move to rollback the country’s nuclear arsenal in return for any economic package from the United States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Some mainstream media and social media users speculated on the two-day visit of Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi at a time when cash-strapped Pakistan is seeking a bailout package from the IMF.

“I can categorically state here that this issue is not on the agenda of DG IAEA’s visit and will not be discussed and there will be no agreement in the context you are referring to,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch rejected the speculations in categorical terms when she was asked to comment on certain speculated media reports during her weekly media briefing.

“We must realize that IAEA deals with civilian nuclear technology and that is the mandate of IAEA. Director General of IAEA is on a visit to Pakistan to discuss cooperation on civil uses of nuclear technology,” she said, adding that the areas of cooperation being discussed during this visit are cooperation in areas of health, agriculture, industry, nuclear medicine, and power generation.

In meetings with DG IAEA, she said that Pakistan’s side has also discussed collaboration between Pakistan and IAEA on new high-yield and drought-resistant varieties of crops and Pakistan’s support for neighbouring countries as a regional centre in the Rays of Hope program of the IAEA.

About Pakistan-US relations, she said that Pakistan is encouraged with the positive momentum in the relations with the United States and the engagement that is taking place both in Islamabad and in Washington DC.

“We believe that the ongoing visits will contribute to further strengthening of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States,” she said. She said that Pakistan and the US have a multifaceted dialogue, adding that besides other areas, cooperation in trade and investment is also being discussed.

She said that the second round of Pakistan-US mid-level Defence Dialogue is under way in Washington to discuss a range of issues including defence and security cooperation in the broader regional and global context.

The Pakistani delegation in the dialogue is led by Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Muhammad Saeed while the US side is led by US Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Dr Ely Ratneu.

She further stated that Counsellor of the US Department of State Derek Chollet will be visiting Pakistan from Thursday for three days along with an interagency delegation. “The visit will focus on bilateral engagement process which has been institutionalised in trade and investment, climate change, clean energy, health, security, education, and other shared priorities,” she said, adding that long-term cooperation with the US on flood rehabilitation and recovery will also be discussed.

Commenting on the State Department spokesperson’s statement that Pakistan and the US are “trusted allies”, she said that Pakistan is “very pleased with the progress” in its engagement with the US. There is a positive momentum in this relationship and we believe that with continuous engagement and dialogue we can further strengthen our bilateral relations. In our various meetings and interactions, the two sides continue to discuss all matters of mutual interest and concern, she added.

Asked to comment on the recent statement by former Prime Minister Imran Khan with regard to the controversial diplomatic cipher, she said that the issue was already debated and settled. “We believe that that controversy is in the past, it has been discussed and debated and settled and we do not wish to address it any further,” she added.

To another question, the spokesperson also rejected the reports about the alleged supply of defence items to Ukraine as baseless, saying that Pakistan maintains a policy of non-interference in military conflicts of other countries.

“The reporting about the supply of defence items by Pakistan to Ukraine is not accurate. Pakistan maintains a policy of non-interference in military conflicts. Pakistan only exports defence stores to other states based on strong End Use and none re-transfer assurances. And this is the case of Pakistan's position in the Ukraine-Russia conflict,” she added.

Asked to comment on Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Danila Ganich’s interview in which he claimed that the US exerted pressure on former premier Imran Khan to cancel his Russia visit “immediately”, she declined to comment on the trip, saying that the former premier’s visit to Moscow is an “old story”.

“First of all, the visit of the former Prime Minister to Moscow – it is an old story on which the Foreign Ministry has made several statements. So, I would not like to rehash what happened at that time,” she added.

To another question about the Indian government’s recent raid on BBC offices, she said that the move is another “stain on India’s so-called democratic credentials.” “We believe that the raids conducted on the BBC offices in India are yet another manifestation of the shrinking space for freedom of media in India,” she said.

She added that such repressive measures are undoubtedly a reprisal after the release of the BBC documentary revealing the truth behind the Gujarat massacre of 2002 and the illegal and unilateral steps of 5th August 2019. “Having failed to hide the truth the Indian government is now targeting an international media house. This, we believe is another stain on India's so-called democratic credentials,” she added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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