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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday urged the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states to “deal with the issue of terrorism as a joint responsibility” and “let’s not get caught up in weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring” and condemn all forms of terrorism including “state-sponsored” terrorism.

The foreign minister said this in his statement to the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) Meeting held in Goa, India, says the Foreign Office here.

“The collective security of our peoples is our joint responsibility. Terrorism continues to threaten global security. Let’s not get caught up in weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring,” Bilawal said in a veiled response to Indian side as the country’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar repeated the old mantra of allegations of cross-border terrorism in his address to the moot.

He emphasized that the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO needs to be further strengthened to effectively address the growing threats to peace and security in the SCO space, adding that many SCO members confront the menace of terrorism, often from the same terrorist groups.

He stated that there is a need for a comprehensive and collective approach to deal with the issue of terrorism. “This requires not only a comprehensive approach but also a collective approach. It demands we address the root causes, as well as, the threats posed by specific groups. It requires that we let this challenge unite us to fight it rather than divide us to become its victim. Our success requires us to isolate this issue from geo-political partisanship,” he added.

“Practical, pragmatic solutions exist for us to put an end to this chapter once and for all. We must stop conflating non-state actors with state actors. Condemn all forms of terrorism including state-sponsored terrorism.”

He further stated: “When I speak on this topic, I do so not only as the foreign minister of Pakistan whose people have suffered the most in terms of number of attacks and number of casualties. I also speak as the son whose mother was assassinated at the hands of terrorists. I feel the pain of this loss, empathize with victims across the world a way most can’t. I and my country are firmly committed to be part of regional and global efforts for eradicating this menace.”

The foreign minister stated that Pakistan considers the SCO a key regional platform comprising countries, “which are bound together by longstanding historical, cultural, civilizational and geographical ties.”

“There couldn’t be a more powerful indication of the importance that Pakistan attaches to the SCO than my presence here in Goa for this CFM,” he added.

He said that Pakistan strongly believes in and fully adheres to the principles of mutual trust, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and the pursuit of shared development enshrined in the original “Shanghai Spirit.”

“These principles are in perfect alignment with Pakistan’s own vision of enhanced regional economic connectivity and win-win cooperation. We believe the SCO could be a key platform for taking this vision of Eurasian connectivity to the next level. Pakistan’s location at the crossroads of South Asia and the Middle East makes it an ideal trade conduit for the whole region,” he added.

Referring to the last year’s Samarkand Declaration which called for building efficient transport corridors and reliable supply chains in the region, he said that investing in our collective connectivity capacities is crucial to advancing our shared vision for an economically integrated region. “In that spirit, Pakistan looks forward to hosting the “Conference on Transport Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” in September 2023,” he added.

He further said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can similarly be a force multiplier for regional connectivity. “For too long, we have lamented the lack of connectivity between our economies – an impediment to regional trade and investment. CPEC does not only connect Pakistan to its neighbour China. CPEC offers all countries invested in the commonality of the future of this region to take the journey further and connect the dots towards full regional economic integration,” he added.

Without mentioning India’s August 5, 2019, illegal steps, he said that the unilateral and illegal measures by States in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions run counter to the SCO objectives. “We need to be unambiguous in keeping our commitments and charting out a new future for our people: One that is not based on conflict preservation but on conflict resolution. We must also resolutely resist the temptation to stoke prejudice and discrimination to derive our identity,” he emphasised.

He added that it is imperative that wilful provocations and incitement to hate, especially on religious grounds, are roundly condemned. “It is our collective duty to fight against fascism and historical revisionism that is leading to violent ultra-nationalism anywhere in the world. We must ensure that racism and xenophobic ideologies, have no place in today’s world and fundamental human rights and freedoms are guaranteed to all,” he added.

The foreign minister said that Pakistan remains committed to multilateralism and continues to play a leading role at all international forums including the United Nations, in forging friendly relations among nations and supporting the peaceful settlement of longstanding international disputes.

He also commended China’s role in bridging differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran – two countries that are also associated with the SCO. “When great powers play the role of peacemaker, we can unlock the potential of peace while paving the way for greater cooperation, regional integration and economic opportunities for our peoples. We must ensure respect for these universally recognized principles within the SCO,” he said.

Bilawal also underscored the importance of a collective response to collective challenges such as climate change, the post-Covid impacts on the economies, poverty and the situation in Afghanistan.

“The solution to our collective challenges should be collective action, not a divided reaction. While our problems may seem immense, I believe as a united human race we have the capacity to not only deal with the challenges but to learn lessons for our collective good, and build in the resilience that will equip us to address future challenges. We must isolate these issues from hyper-partisan geopolitics if we are to succeed. Our excuse cannot be we were too divided to put up a fight!” he added.

Referring to the recent floods in Pakistan, he asked his counterparts from the SCO states to imagine what it would mean for their people if a disaster of this scale were to proportionally afflict their respective countries.

“What would one-third of India’s land mass look like underwater? How the people of China would be tested if 1 in 7 people were made climate refugees overnight? This was a reality for my county and my people, just last year. We are rebuilding our lives at great cost and bracing for the inevitability of such a disaster striking again,” he added.

He said that Pakistan’s leadership through its chairmanship of G77 + China helped advocate for loss and damage to be included on the agenda of COP27. However, this is too little, too late, and much more needs to be done, especially by developed countries, he added.

“We must hold the developed world up to their commitment of providing US $ 100 billion annually for climate finance,” he added.

On Afghanistan, he said we continue to call the international community to meaningfully engage with the interim Afghan government to better understand and influence the course of events. “After being the playground for great powers, time and time again, we owe it to the people of Afghanistan to not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he asserted.

He said that a united international community must continue to urge the Afghan authorities to adopt universally-accepted principles of political inclusivity, and respecting the rights of all Afghans, including girls’ right to education.

He said that the international community should also help build Afghanistan’s counter-terrorism capacity for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world at large.

“It is alarming that terrorist groups within Afghanistan are cooperating amongst themselves more than we are as the international community. As the country that will be the first but not the last to suffer the consequences, Pakistan calls on the Interim Afghan Authorities to uphold their commitments on not allowing the use of Afghan soil for terrorism,” he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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