Address by the Prime Minister at the Envoys Conference

May 06, 2014

Mr. Sartaj Aziz Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs,

Mr. Tariq Fatimi Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs,

Mr. Iizaz Ch Secretary Foreign Affairs

Members of the Cabinet,

Foreign Secretary,

Envoys,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Assalam-o-Alaikum.

 

It is my pleasure to chair the concluding session of the Envoys Conference, focussed on the Middle East.

 

I would like to commend the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for taking this initiative and congratulate the officers and staff, who contributed to the successful organization of this Conference. It is an excellent initiative to bring our Envoys home periodically, for intensive debate and discussion amongst themselves, as well as with the concerned stake-holders. This

should become a regular feature of our diplomatic inter-action.

 

Our Envoys play a vital role in the implementation of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Their invaluable assessments and recommendations, based on their wide experience, expertise and in-depth knowledge, serve as crucial inputs for the Government, in formulating and calibrating policies. I take this opportunity to appreciate the good work done by them, while stressing that our diplomacy remains our first line of defence.  

 

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

As seasoned diplomats, you are aware of the remarkable transformations that have taken place the world over, during the span of only a few decades. Some of these have promoted regional and global connectivity, breaking down barriers to movement of persons, resources and information. Others have erected new walls of suspicion and misgiving, adding to the challenges that a developing country such as ours faces. Your task is to analyse and appreciate these developments, so as to become the eyes and years of your country’s leadership. It is your advice and counsel, which should guide us in our resolve to make this land of ours, a modern, moderate, peaceful and prosperous democratic state.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Pakistan is a pivotal state in the international system. By virtue of its geo-strategic position, rich human and natural endowments, and vast power potential, Pakistan is destined to play a vital role regionally, and at the international level.

 

Our founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, always stressed “peace within, and peace without.”  My Government remains deeply committed to the realization of this powerful vision.

 

I personally envision Pakistan to be a force for good in world affairs. We have, therefore, worked consistently to reinforce and expand Pakistan’s positive contributions to global peace, progress and prosperity.

 

The defining principle of our foreign policy remains “peace for development.” Pakistan is making utmost efforts to create a peaceful external environment, so that our core national objective of economic development is robustly advanced.

 

You would recall that when our government took office last year, I broadly outlined our priorities in foreign policy – including safeguarding the national interest, building a peaceful neighbourhood, focussing on economic diplomacy, and provision of quality service to the Pakistanis living abroad. I am pleased that the Envoys Conference has deliberated on all these aspects, of our diplomatic out reach.

 

I have listened carefully to your recommendations, presented by the Foreign Secretary and assure you that they would receive our most careful consideration.

 

In the domestic context, the Government is working assiduously to address the challenges of extremism, energy and economy.

 

A National Security Policy has been approved. Consistent with the APC decision, a dialogue process has been launched, to address the issues of extremism and militancy. We hope that our sincere efforts would yield the desired results and help turn the tide of violence, which is preventing our nation from realizing its true potential.

 To resolve the energy crisis, our efforts have already helped add over 2,600 MW to the national grid, and more is expected later this year.  In fact, our ambition is to go far beyond meeting our current shortfall, which explains why we plan to add 21,000 MW additional power to the national grid, in the next ten years. This would be more than what the country was able to generate in the past sixty five years.

 

The economy is bouncing back, with foreign exchange reserves climbing, budget deficit coming down, tax revenues increasing, stock market flourishing, rupee strengthening, and inflation contained. The GDP growth rate is expected to be at 4% this year, compared to 2.9% in the corresponding period last year. As our ratings improve, investor confidence is reviving.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

On the external front, our central emphasis has been on building a “peaceful neighbourhood.” Accordingly, I have pursued a policy of constructive engagement, with all our neighbours.

 

As regards Afghanistan, the key tenets of our approach are non-interference, support for the peace and reconciliation process, and building a bilateral relationship, marked by enhanced trade and economic cooperation.

 

We remain committed to reaching out to India and seeking peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including Kashmir, through a sustained dialogue. We believe the main dynamic in South Asia should be cooperation, not confrontation. The hopes and aspirations of 1/5th of humanity for a more hopeful future can be realized, only if we focus on accelerating our development, and harnessing our full potential.

 

Since June 2013, we have reinforced our strategic partnership with China, re-oriented the relationship with the U.S., upgraded ties with the European Union, reached out afresh to Russia, and strengthened linkages with ASEAN, Africa and Latin America.

 

We are also paying particular attention to the promotion of our special relationships with fraternal countries in the Gulf and Middle East. Recent exchanges at the highest level reflect these endeavours. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Let me take this opportunity to re-emphasize that Pakistan desires peace and tranquillity in the Middle East. We will maintain our policy of non-interference, in the internal affairs of states.

 

We have an equal aspiration to forge closer bilateral ties with all countries in the region. Our efforts to develop bilateral ties with one country are not, and will not be, at the expense of another. Pakistan remains ready to take two steps to greet a hand extended in friendship.

 

Our approach to the transition in the Arab world, would continue to be guided by the principles, enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

 

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

In this age of globalization and growing inter-dependence, economic strength and greater integration with the rest of the world, have become policy imperatives for all countries. Foreign policy has also virtually become economic policy.  My emphasis on economic diplomacy stems from this belief.

 

We have, therefore, taken a conscious decision to re-balance Pakistan’s geo-strategic and geo-economic priorities. I have also consistently emphasized the importance of “trade, not aid.” Our prominent successes so far, include the initiation of the game-changing “Economic Corridor” project with China, and the GSP-plus status with the EU.

 

It is essential that in all our endeavours, we focus on seeking opportunities for expanded trade, investments and economic cooperation that exist in every region. With a booming energy sector, development of infrastructure, a thriving services sector, and enhanced focus on connectivity, the opportunities offered by the Middle East are immense.

 

I am sure our Envoys would pursue the new initiatives, as their fore-most priorities. I also emphasize that their efforts must be backed by equal zeal and endeavour by our line Ministries at home – including Commerce, EAD, Finance, BOI and TDAP. Only synergetic efforts by all Ministries and Departments would yield the expected outcomes. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I also wish to reiterate my emphasis on the role of the Pakistani Diaspora – both as a “bridge” and a “catalyst”, for fostering of enhanced economic collaboration, between Pakistan and countries of their residence.

 

Our community in Europe, North America and the Middle East, is well-placed to play such a role. We need to explore ways on how our influential expatriates can feed into public policy, thereby creating new opportunities of cooperation.

 

I am pleased that our Envoys have made efforts to improve services to Pakistani expatriates abroad. More, however, needs to be done.

 

Our Envoys must be able to respond quickly and positively to the needs of the community. The Embassies and Consulates have a duty to ensure that our community members are treated with dignity and respect, irrespective of their social status, and provided the best available facilities.

 

I am aware of the resource constraints faced by our Missions. The Government has already taken steps in that regard and I hope that the benefits of those initiatives will soon begin to be seen, and felt by our people.  

 

The Government will also welcome innovative ideas for generating funds, for measures aimed at improving community services, as well as adapting the rules and regulations, for utilization of already available funds.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

In today’s age, projecting soft power is an indispensible part of statecraft. This policy, generally referred to as public diplomacy, must be pursued vigorously, to strengthen our efforts to project Pakistan’s policies and actions, in the right perspective. Second, we should project our vibrant culture and proud traditions more effectively, to the world community. The objective of promoting a positive image of Pakistan must, therefore, be single-mindedly pursued. 

 

We have a number of promising successes to talk of--including peaceful transition and deepening of democracy, independence of the judiciary, growing vibrancy of civil society and the media, efforts for social and economic empowerment of women and youth, and resilience of the Pakistani nation to succeed against all odds.

 

This is a powerful story and an uplifting one as well. It is now for our envoys to become sincere, dedicated and effective bearers of this message, to the wider world. Your efforts would be critical to the success of our endeavours, at home. You have my support as well as good wishes.

 I thank you.