ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday issued broader foreign policy guidelines for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, envisaging peaceful neighbourhood, resolution of disputes through dialogue, launching new initiatives to improve ties with Afghanistan and seeking deeper engagement with the United States despite its apparent tilt towards India.
The new guidelines – featuring a comprehensive review of the country’s foreign policy priorities in the wake of the recent developments in the region – were unveiled by the prime minister during his visit to the Foreign Office here.
The review was necessitated by a host of recent developments, including simmering tensions with India, strained ties with Afghanistan, current turmoil in the Middle East and the fallout of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington.
According to an official handout issued by his office, Prime Minister Sharif expressed disappointment over the ‘complete silence’ of the US-India joint statement on the atrocities being committed by Indian security forces against Kashmiris.
The Prime Minister directed the foreign ministry to proactively highlight the serious human rights violations being committed in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and the denial of the right to self-determination to Kashmiris by New Delhi, said the handout.
During his visit to the Foreign Office, the PM was given a detailed briefing on the challenges facing the country on the foreign policy front as well as the achievements in the context.
PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz recounted important achievements made in the realm of foreign policy under the prime minister’s stewardship.
In her presentation, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua dwelt upon the challenges confronting Pakistan in key areas, including Afghanistan, India and the US. She also briefed the PM on recent developments in the Middle East.
The PM expressed satisfaction over the status of strategic partnership with China and the launch of CPEC, revival of the strategic dialogue with the US, bolstering of relations with Russia and major improvement in relations with Central Asia culminating in Pakistan’s membership of SCO.
The PM stated that these achievements were facilitated by significant gains made in fighting terrorism and in achieving economic turnaround.
Highlighting the importance of securing peace and stability in the region, he said it was only possible through sustained dialogue. He also focussed on the importance Pakistan attached to its partnership with the US.
Sharif directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prepare initiatives on Afghanistan and also on building up economic and trade linkages. He also reiterated his priority for a peaceful neighbourhood and resolution of disputes through dialogue.
He appreciated China’s role for improving Pakistan-Afghanistan relations and recalled his recent meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the SCO Summit and their agreement to evolve a bilateral and quadrilateral mechanism for controlling cross-border terrorism.
The PM emphasised the importance of highlighting the unmatched sacrifices made by Pakistan in combating terrorism and also projecting Pakistan’s soft image.
He stressed that Pakistan should progressively end its reliance on foreign assistance by generating its own resources. Trade, investment and scientific collaboration, he noted, should be strategic pillars of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
Emphasising the importance of providing efficient consular services to overseas Pakistanis, Sharif directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that their services were duly provided in a befitting manner.
Also taking note of the virtual suspension of medical visas, especially for those needing urgent transplants, the PM directed that urgent steps be taken to provide such medical facilities across Pakistan at a reasonable cost.