Pakistan seek good neighbourly relations with India on the basis of mutual respect; Mumtaz

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by the Mumtaz Zahra Spokesperson ministry of foreign affairs on
Friday, 28 June 2024

Islamabad, In his address at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) this week, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar outlined key priorities of Pakistan’s foreign policy. He called for leveraging Pakistan’s strategic location and advocating for international cooperation over confrontation, with a firm support for multilateralism, promoting peaceful relations and regional stability to foster sustainable economic development. He emphasized the importance of humanitarian cooperation in Afghanistan and ensuring that Afghan soil is not used for terrorism against its neighbours. The Deputy Prime Minister also delved upon seeking peaceful relations with India based on mutual respect, resolving the Kashmir dispute, and rejuvenating SAARC, while rejecting India’s unilateral actions in IIOJK.

The Deputy Prime Minister stressed upon strengthening the strategic partnership with China, especially through the advancement of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), deepening ties with Iran, Gulf nations, Türkiye, Central Asian states, and Azerbaijan and maintaining balanced relations with major global powers like the US, China, Russia, the EU, Japan, and ASEAN to enhance Pakistan’s diplomatic flexibility.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar also expressed concern over pressing global issues such as ongoing conflicts, humanitarian crises, unresolved disputes like Palestine and Kashmir, arms race and technological militarization, rising extremism and populism, economic and environmental challenges and the weakening of multilateral institutions.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister emphasized the need for political stability and economic growth as pillars of Pakistan’s foreign policy, enabling the country to fulfil its potential as a positive force in global affairs.

Pakistan and Sweden held the 18th round of Bilateral Political Consultations in Islamabad on 26 June 2024. Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe), Ambassador Shafqat Ali Khan, led the Pakistani delegation, while Director General and Head of the Global Department at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs represented Sweden.

The two sides reviewed the breadth of bilateral cooperation and agreed to enhance cooperation, aiming for a comprehensive relationship grounded in strong economic ties.

Additional Foreign Secretary (Asia & Pacific) Ambassador Imran Ahmed Siddiqui represented Pakistan at the 19th Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), held in Tehran on 24 June 2024.

At the conference, Ambassador Siddiqui emphasized the significance of promoting regional connectivity and leveraging complementarities among member states. He also underscored the importance of strengthening sub-regional dialogue and cooperation mechanisms within Asia to effectively address issues of foreign occupation and persecution, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia.

We deeply regret the Resolution 901 adopted by the House of Representatives of the United States. The resolution clearly stems from an inadequate and erroneous understanding of the political and electoral processes of Pakistan. It is also an unsolicited interference in Pakistan’s domestic affairs.

We believe that bilateral relations between countries should be based on mutual respect and sovereign equality. The unsolicited interference from the US Congress is therefore neither welcome nor acceptable.

The timing and context of Resolution 901 are also not conducive for the current positive trajectory of bilateral ties between Pakistan and the United States. Pakistan would like to develop its relations with the United States on the basis of mutual trust, confidence and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.

We also hope that the US Congress will play a more constructive role in strengthening Pakistan-US bilateral relations by focusing on avenues of collaboration for mutual benefit of the two nations.

Pakistan strongly condemns the indiscriminate bombing of Beit Lahiya city in northern Gaza by Israeli forces killing women and children. The indiscriminate acts of collective punishments constitute war crimes and flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

Pakistan deplores Israel’s actions as war crimes against the people of Gaza and emphasise the urgent need for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to prevent further civilian casualties.

We remain concerned about the continued suppression of the democratic rights of the Kashmiris in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

A few days ago, the Indian authorities banned the elections of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA), and arrested former President of the Bar Association, Mian Qayoom. Earlier, on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha, the Kashmiris were not allowed to congregate at Srinagar’s historic Jamia Mosque and Eid Gah for the Eid prayers. The prayer leader and prominent Kashmiri leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was also placed under house arrest.

These oppressive measures are yet another example of the autocratic approach of the Indian authorities, and a violation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights, especially the right of association and peaceful assembly. We urge the Indian authorities to respect the human rights of the Kashmiri people, and their inalienable right to self-determination, as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Pakistan will continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.

Now an announcement:

The Government of Pakistan has decided to appoint Additional Foreign Secretary (Middle East and SIFC) Ambassador Rizwan Saeed Sheikh as Pakistan’s new Ambassador to Washington DC and Ambassador Asim Iftikhar as Pakistan’s Additional Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York. Ambassador Asim Iftikhar is currently serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to France.

Question and Answers;

(Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today): Is Pakistan participating in Doha dialogue? What would be the important points of this dialogue? Especially regarding acceptance of Afghan interim government. Need your comments on that.

Spokesperson: Pakistan will participate in the Doha-III meeting. Pakistan will be represented by our Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Durrani, and our Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ambassador Ubaid Ur Rehman Nizamani. The agenda for the talks has been set by the organizers, including the United Nations and the Qatari authorities.

(Aijaz Ahmed, GNN): Two things. First, why was it so important to depute an Additional Permanent Representative to the United Nations? Ambassador Munir Akram, Permanent Representative to the United Nations wasn’t enough to fulfill the task?

(Azaz Syed, Geo News): As per my information Ambassador Munir Akram is appointed on contract as Permanent Representative to the United Nations. When is his contract expiring because he’s been given repeated extensions?

Spokesperson: I am, at this position, not able to announce further details. I have shared with you the decision of the Government of Pakistan, which was taken yesterday. Ambassador Asim Iftikhar, who is currently our Ambassador in France, will be Additional Permanent Representative of Pakistan in New York and he will take over as Permanent Representative of Pakistan in due course.

(Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International): Ma’am my question is similar to the previous ones, regarding recent changes of Ambassadors in the United States. Can it be seen in the light of recent actions by the American Congress? Secondly, we have already condemned the US resolutions but has American Ambassador been sent anything in writing by the Foreign Office?

Spokesperson: Regarding your first question, the announcements that I just made are part of the regular posting cycle and these appointments were under consideration over the last several weeks. The announcement has just been made. With regards to your second question, as I said earlier, Pakistan has conveyed its strong concerns about the action taken by the US Congress, the resolution 901. Our statement speaks for itself. You may have also seen the statement, which was made by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar on the floor of the National Assembly yesterday. I would advise you to tune in for further developments and details.

(Siyar Ali Shah, Khyber News): Ma’am, yesterday a communiqué was issued regarding the resolution 901 in which it was stated that the relations between Pakistan and America were going positively before the resolution. Have the relations been affected by this resolution?

Spokesperson: I don’t know if you were present when I was speaking on this issue earlier in my opening remarks. What we have said is that Pakistan believes that bilateral relations between countries should be based on mutual respect and sovereign equality. The unsolicited interference from the US Congress is neither welcome nor acceptable, and this is what Pakistan has said earlier as well. We also believe that the resolution and its timing, is not conducive for the current trajectory of bilateral ties between the two countries. We would like to develop relations with the United States on the basis of mutual trust and confidence and non-interference in each other domestic affairs and we hope that US Congress will play a constructive role in strengthening Pakistan-US bilateral ties.

(Aijaz Ahmed, GNN): There was a hearing before this resolution and then this resolution was under consideration of the US Congress for quite some time. Whose failure was it that it could not be countered and suddenly this resolution was passed. Has any notice been taken in this regard and have the responsible persons been questioned about this? Whose failure was it?

Spokesperson: The resolution, which was adopted by the US House of Representatives is an interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. It is also clear that internal political dynamics inside the United States, including the ongoing election campaign have contributed to the adoption of this resolution.

(Azaz Syed, Geo News): Ma’am, is it a co-incidence that the Pakistani Ambassador has been changed right when this resolution was passed? Has the former Ambassador been replaced due to his performance or is it a routine transfer?

Spokesperson: I think I just responded to this question but I would reiterate that the appointments that I just announced were in the pipeline and under consideration for several weeks. The announcement has just been made today, but the process was already underway for the last several weeks.

(Sarah Zaman, VOA): This is a follow up to a question that was earlier asked about how communication may have happened with the US Embassy in Pakistan. So, you said that Pakistan has strongly conveyed its concerns. We’ve heard your statement, but can you please elaborate in what mode the conversation has happened with the US Embassy here? Has there been a written document sent to them? Has there been a one-on -one? Was somebody called and conversation was had? So, if you can give some details?

Spokesperson: First, Sarah, I think you have read too much into what I said. I have not used the word US Embassy. I have said that Pakistan has clearly conveyed and expressed its concerns about this. The Deputy Prime Minister also spoke about it yesterday on the floor of the Assembly and there are other considerations which are underway right now, including at the National Assembly level. At this point, I am not in a position to share those details with you.

(Sara Zaman, VOA): I know you didn’t say that, but I wanted to find out if a conversation has been held with the US officials present in Pakistan or State Department in Washington. So, beyond the public statements that we have heard, has there been a communication with US officials at any level about this?

Spokesperson: Pakistan has been engaged with the US authorities in the process of development of this resolution and consideration of this resolution at various levels and leading up to its passage two days ago. As I said earlier, I am not in a position to share details of the nature of our conversations with the United States at this stage.

(Khawaja Nayyar Iqbal, Media Today): Prime Minister Modi is elected as India’s weakest Prime Minister and before this time he had violent policies regarding Pakistan and Sikhs. What does Pakistan expect from the newly formed government of India now?

Spokesperson: I think I have spoken about it last week as well. You asked this question in the past, and I responded that it is the right of the people of India to elect their government, and Pakistan does not have any commentary to offer on the political makeup of their Government. With regards to Pakistan’s position on South Asia and our relations with India, you may have heard the statement which was made by the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. It was a very clear and categoric statement and I would like to read some excerpts from that. The Deputy Prime Minister said, and I quote, we seek good neighbourly relations with India on the basis of mutual respect, sovereign equality, and a just and peaceful resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute. While Pakistan has always been receptive to constructive engagement through dialogue that includes all outstanding issues, Pakistan would never agree to unilateral approaches or attempts to impose India’s will or hegemony. We have also said that the onus remains on India to take necessary steps to create an enabling environment for purposeful engagement and result-oriented dialogue on all issues. In that context, it is equally important that India eschews its relentless smear campaign against Pakistan, desist from its state sponsorship of terrorism and extrajudicial killings inside Pakistan and takes tangible steps to move the relationship in a positive direction.

(Rizwan Abbasi, Daily Ausaf): Ma’am, four days ago, Pakistan’s delegation visited Occupied-Kashmir. Need details on that, please.

Spokesperson: Yes. As you’re aware, a neutral expert and an ad hoc Court of Arbitration are hearing Pakistan’s objections to the construction of Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric projects in IIOJK. A team of our technical and legal experts is accompanying the Neutral Expert who is inspecting these projects as part the ongoing proceedings.

(Kiran Butt, Khorasan diary): Ma’am, a Press Release was issued by the Ministry of Interior in which it was reiterated that foreigners would be sent back to their countries in which the number of Afghan nationals are huge. But the report also said that Tajik nationals would also be included in that list. So, has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received anything from the Ministry of Interior regarding this? And my second question is regarding Khwaja Asif’s interview which he gave in the morning and said that we can also attack inside Afghanistan if we found TTP hideouts. Has Ministry of Foreign Affairs received details of this from the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior?

Spokesperson: Regarding your second question, I would not like to comment on the specific statement attributed to the Minister for Defence. Details or context of that statement may be sought from the Ministry of Defense. Pakistan has always said that we respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, and in that context, it is critical that Afghanistan takes effective action against those terrorist groups which are responsible for terror incidents and attacks inside Pakistan. We have also urged Afghanistan to ensure that any terror hideouts that destabilize the region should be eliminated, and we expect Afghanistan to fulfill the commitments that it has made to the international community and to Pakistan specifically.

On your first question, I would like to reiterate what we have said in the past regarding Pakistan’s Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan. It is not focused on any specific nationality. It has outlined that any foreign national who is in Pakistan illegally, in defiance of Pakistan’s immigration laws, will face justice. Pakistani laws are clear with regards to those who are in Pakistan illegally, and that includes fines, imprisonment and deportation. And this Plan, as I have said repeatedly from this podium, is being implemented and will be implemented without discrimination to any nationality.

(Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News): Just two quick follow ups. First, about the visit to Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, what is the precise site they are going to inspect and whether they are still there or they have returned. And second question also a follow-up on which we have seen lot of commentary, not just from ordinary Pakistani politicians, but from the cabinet members vis-a-vis Resolution 901. Should we infer that since the chosen representatives of the United States have spoken against Pakistani election, the relationship is in danger, or is under some kind of cloud, which could further endanger Pak-US relationship.

Spokesperson: Regarding your second question, I would disagree with the presumption, Pakistan and United States have a long history of relationship. It is a multifaceted relationship. There have been areas of disagreement between our two countries, and we have forcefully voiced – both sides have forcefully voiced our concerns about those areas of disagreement, and we will continue to do so, but Pakistan remains committed to having a strong, multifaceted, robust relationship with the United States on the basis of mutual respect, mutual confidence and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. Your first question was about the visit of Pakistan’s delegation to IIOJK. As I said earlier, Pakistani technical experts are accompanying the Neutral Expert who is considering Pakistan’s objections to the Ratle and Kishanganga hydroelectric power projects. The Neutral Expert is in IIOJK to examine the two sites. The delegation visit dates are from 19th to 28th of June.

(Azaz Syed, Geo News): Ma’am, if we see the statistics 85 percent of American legislators have voted for the resolution. Don’t you think that this is the failure of our Mission there in Washington that 85% percent of American legislators, are supporting this resolution?

Spokesperson: I would not like to go into the dynamics of the debate in the US Congress or the resolution which was eventually adopted. The fact is that this resolution is not constructive. It is not objective. It is divorced from realities in Pakistan. It is an interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. Our Embassy in Washington has been engaged with members of the US Congress in the several weeks preceding the passage of the resolution, and with the US administration as well. It is very unfortunate that the US Congress took this decision ignoring the realities on ground, the briefings that it received from our Embassy in Washington and the positive trajectory of our relationship that we believe is important for both our nations.

(Anwer Abbas, 24 News): I want to know about Russia’s project, that is International North-South Transport Corridor. Pakistani Ambassador to Russia, Khalid Jamali, in his official statement said that we are included in this project and we are trying to implement it. So, need some details regarding the level on which Pakistan is participating in this project as this is a huge project and India is also included in it. Please share details.

Spokesperson: The statement of Ambassador Khalid Jamali is quite clear. I would like to reiterate our position on the North-South International Transport Corridor. We have taken note of Russia’s invitation to Pakistan to become part of the International North-South Transport Corridor. Eurasian connectivity and integration offer new opportunities for shared prosperity and development in the region and we view revival of historical land routes through Central Asia as vital enhancement of bilateral relations Pakistan is therefore carefully evaluating its position on joining the International North-South Transport Corridor, and has in principle, no objection to it.

(Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Royal News): Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister has indicated bring a counter resolution on American resolution. Will it be enough to counter the US resolution? Is there any law through which the United States can pass a resolution against any country and interfere as it has done in Pakistan?

Spokesperson: I do not wish to comment on the laws of the United States. Pakistan’s position and its laws are clear. Pakistan is a sovereign state and will not accept interference in our domestic affairs. As far as any development coming from the Pakistani parliament is concerned, I would advise you to stay tuned and consult the Secretariat of the National Assembly of Pakistan.