ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said Pakistan was ready to play its part for a positive and productive partnership with the European Union as enormous potential existed in areas of trade, climate change and digitization.
In his virtual address to the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET), the foreign minister said the Pak-EU Strategic Engagement Plan signed in June 2019 had ushered in a new phase in the relationship.
Qureshi mentioned that the Pak-EU relationship had provided a solid foundation and framework for cooperation in multiple domains, including) political and defence, trade and investment, promotion of democracy, rule of law, good governance and human rights, migration and mobility, sustainable development, education and culture and science and technology.
He expressed satisfaction that the Pak-EU relationship was moving steadily in a positive direction in all spheres of cooperation and expressed commitment to “remain engaged to further expand our multidimensional partnership”.
He said the EU was a traditional friend and a major economic partner of Pakistan with their cooperation based on shared values of democracy, pluralism, mutual understanding and respect.
He lauded the EU’s efforts and contributions to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Qureshi said trade was an important aspect of the Pakistan-EU multi-faceted relationship.
While the GSP Plus has supported our exports, we have introduced reforms to attract foreign direct investment to maximally utilize this facility, he added.
The foreign minister said Pakistan offered an open and deregulated market with 100 percent equity ownership and repatriation of capital and dividends.
He mentioned that over the last five years, Pakistan’s IT exports had increased by 151 percent and offered the EU to benefit from the country’s human resource in the IT sector to realize its goals of Digitization.
The Foreign Minister expressed disappointment at the adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament on blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which he said, “reflected a lack of understanding of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan and in the wider Muslim world”.
“We need to appreciate the religious sentiments attached to the personality of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and other religious symbols,” he stressed.
He said the government had firmly moved against the radical groups after the recent protests and assured that “no armed pressure group is being allowed to challenge the writ of the state and dictate government policies”.
The foreign minister said Pakistan believed in the policy of restraint and peaceful coexistence and was well poised to assume an even greater role as a responsible and responsive member in the comity of nations.
“We want to anchor our international engagement in economic cooperation and the inextricable link between peace and development. Our focus is shifting from geo-politics to geo-economics,” he said.
As an emerging market of 220 million people, 60 percent of whom are below the age of 30 years, Pakistan offers a multitude of opportunities for trade and investment, he added.
He said anchored in economic security, Pakistan was focused on connectivity by promoting trade, transit and energy flows among Central and South Asia and Middle-East, providing economic bases as a development strategy and peace within our borders and beyond.
Qureshi said peace and stability in Afghanistan were paramount in realizing the government’s vision of regional economic integration and trans-regional connectivity.
He said Pakistan had long maintained that there was “no military solution” in Afghanistan. We remain committed to an “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” peace process, he added.
He said Pakistan had consistently supported the peace process and the facilitation culminated in the US-Taliban Peace Agreement and subsequent commencement of Intra-Afghan negotiations.
He warned that continued violence following the withdrawal of the US and NATO forces could potentially lead to rising in drugs production and the exodus of Afghans from their country.
Pakistan stands as a gatekeeper in stemming the flow of illegal migrants and narcotics from Afghanistan, he said.
He said Pakistan remained firmly committed to improving relations with all its neighbours, including India, however, regretted that the overtures for peace were not reciprocated by India.
“Instead, it unilaterally and illegally moved to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir – an UN-recognised disputed territory and vitiated the environment for dialogue. The onus is now on India to create an enabling environment, he said.
Qureshi said the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is indeed the single biggest obstacle in the way of building durable and lasting peace in South Asia.
A solution in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people is indispensable, he added.
He mentioned that the region’s strategic stability was threatened by the growing conventional asymmetry between Pakistan and India.
He recalled that EU Disinfo Lab unearthed India’s nefarious activities and urged the EU authorities to take notice of this massive misinformation campaign against Pakistan and not let third countries misuse the name of EU institutions.