Engagement with India for the benefit of Pakistan: Bilawal

Representative photo: Reuters


Representative photo: Reuters

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday June 16, 2022 pleaded for trade and engagement with other countries, especially India and the United States, and noted that his country was isolated on the world stage due to past policies.

In his first major foreign policy speech since taking office in late April, he touched on the country’s key relationships and questioned the conduct of foreign policy in the past.

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Speaking at the Islamabad Institute for Strategic Studies, a government-funded think tank, the minister said the coalition government had inherited an “internationally isolated and internationally disengaged” country.

He identified India and the United States as countries with which Pakistan’s relations were problematic.

Already strained ties between Islamabad and Washington hit rock bottom earlier this year when Pakistan’s now toppled Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government accused the United States of collaborating with opposition parties to oust him.

PTI leader and former prime minister Imran Khan campaigned aggressively after being ousted by a vote of no confidence in parliament, calling for freedom from “slaves of foreign powers”. This increased anti-Americanism in the country.

However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken contacted Mr Bhutto-Zardari shortly after taking over as Foreign Secretary and invited him to a conference on food security. The two men also met in New York on the sidelines of the forum.

Allegations of “regime change”, however, continue to cast long shadows over bilateral relations.

The PTI government also cut diplomatic ties with New Delhi after the BJP government revoked the self-rule status of occupied Kashmir in 2019.

Subsequent events in Kashmir and the actions of Hindu supremacists against Muslims in India prevented re-engagement. Islamabad’s position has been that it wants normalization, but it is up to India to provide an enabling environment for that to happen.

In his speech on Thursday, the foreign minister placed more emphasis on engagement with India, saying it was time to move on to economic diplomacy and focus on engagement.

His argument was that despite a ‘long history of wars and conflicts’ and the actions of the Indian government in occupied Kashmir and its anti-Muslim agenda, it was not in Pakistan’s interest to remain disengaged. .

Referring to the Kashmir conflict and the marginalization of Muslims in India, he said these issues remained the “cornerstone” of Pakistani discourse and that the government was addressing them “in the most serious and aggressive manner”.

At the same time, he questioned whether the disengagement with India served the interests of the country. “Are we achieving our goals, whatever they are; whether it’s Kashmir, rising Islamophobia or the Indian government’s kind of Hindu supremacy. Does that serve our purpose?”

“We have virtually cut off all engagement” with India, he said.

The foreign minister claimed that if Pakistan had entered into an economic engagement with India in the past, it would have been in a better position to influence Delhi’s policy and would have prevented the two countries from taking extreme positions.

As for China, the foreign minister said the government was determined to engage in the economy. However, he warned against falling victim to high-powered competition, apparently referring to US-China competition.

Copyright: Dawn/Asia News Network