Address by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, at the 50th Foundation Day of the ISSI

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Address by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, at the 50th Foundation Day of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, ISSI,
16 June 2023

Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BoG, ISSI
Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, Director General, ISSI
Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,

Assalam-o-Alaikum!

I am honoured to join you in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). This milestone is not only a testament to the dedication and commitment of the ISSI, but it also holds a special place in my heart as the foundation of this prestigious institution was laid by my grandfather Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. His vision for a think-tank that would shape Pakistan’s foreign policy discourse has undoubtedly borne fruit over the past five decades. Its analyses of key geopolitical trends, particularly those of significance to Pakistan and our region, have been highly regarded by the Foreign Office and the Government in general.

I would also like to acknowledge all the eminent Chairs and Director Generals, Research Faculty, and Staff who have contributed to the Institute’s work at various points, and helped it evolve into a premier think-tank of Pakistan.

Distinguished Guests,

The world today is beset by the inter-locking food, fuel, financial crises and the existential threat of climate change. The most distinguishing feature of our times is the intensifying great-power contestation – which has in its wake the potential to divide the world, undermine the prospects of international collaboration to tackle global challenges, and even evoke major-power conflict. If the current trends are not checked and reversed, I dread that we might end up losing the world itself, while seeking to preserve the current ‘world order.’

Pakistan’s foreign policy therefore, must be imaginative, multi-dimensional, and flexible enough to adapt to the rapidly transforming geo-political landscape across the globe.

Distinguished Participants,

When the Government assumed Office in April 2022, it faced serious challenges on the diplomatic front. Despite that, we diligently pursued a foreign policy aimed at addressing our national challenges, opening doors for our people, improving access of our goods and services, preserving sovereign decision-making at multilateral fora and promoting multilateralism and international law while amplifying Pakistan’s viewpoint at the regional and global level.

Addressing our domestic issues required quick rebuilding of ties and restoring trust with key capitals and reinvigorating substantive engagement with our traditional partners.

Pakistan is committed to forging good relations with all major powers. Beyond the U.S. and China, this includes Russia, Europe and Japan as well as ASEAN and the Republic of Korea.

We reinforced and deepened our traditional partnerships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Türkiye, Iran, and Qatar.

We see a positive trend in Pakistan-Africa bilateral linkages in terms of trade, political, parliamentary, military & security Cooperation.

Pakistan has clearly voiced its opposition to any bloc politics or relapse into the Cold War. Forging military alliances and assigning the role of ‘net security provider’ to some countries at the expense of others is fraught with grave consequences. In our view, the main driver for international relations should be cooperation, not confrontation. There is everything to be gained from economic inter-dependence and peaceful coexistence; and everything to lose from a mindless drift into confrontation and conflict. We hope prudence will prevail and the world would step back from the precipice.

The All-weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between Pakistan and China has been enduring and mutually-beneficial over several decades. China remains a steadfast and reliable partner, and our bilateral ties continue to strengthen across myriad fields. Pakistan is fully committed to ensuring the success of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which has a transformational effect as it completes its first decade this year. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor’s extension to Afghanistan and further West would help significantly advance our agenda of connectivity and economic integration.

There has been a positive momentum in the Pak-U.S. relationship. The new government took over when the momentum of bilateral ties had stalled. Proactive outreach resulted in high-level visits from both sides. We are confident that de-hyphenation of relations would further contribute to strengthening of our bilateral relations

With Russia, Pakistan continues to build a relationship based on trust, understanding and close cooperation on regional and international issues of common concern. There is so much potential to be realized across multiple sectors.

As a friend of both Russia and Ukraine, we hope that there will be move towards peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict through dialogue and diplomacy. As Pakistan has stressed throughout, there has to be an adherence to the time-honoured principles of inter-state relations and the UN Charter – including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Europe had forsaken war; we earnestly hope the current drift would be reversed and a beginning would be made towards addressing mutual concerns and building sustainable peace in Europe again.

As far as our relationship with India is concerned, currently, it is marked by an atmosphere of mistrust, primarily due to India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019. Pakistan is committed to having cooperative and good-neighbourly relations with India, on the basis of mutual respect and sovereign equalities. To move forward, India will have to address the obstacles that hinder peaceful coexistence, reverse its illegal measures in IIOJK, and create an enabling environment for meaningful engagement and result-oriented dialogue. Pakistan remains committed to a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution and the wishes of the Kashmiri people. If this dispute is resolved in a just and fair manner, not only durable peace will be established in South Asia but also the peace dividends would contribute to the well-being and prosperity of the 1/5 (one fifth) of humanity residing in our region.

I had the opportunity to visit GOA this year to participate in the SCO-CFM. The SCO Heads of State (HOS) meeting is going to be held soon in India. As Pakistan was considering mode of Prime Minister’s participation in the SCO summit, India announced to hold the summit in virtual format.  Pakistan is committed to engagement through multilateral organizations including SCO, UN and other multilateral organizations.

In light of the recent political developments in Afghanistan, the international community must maintain a pragmatic approach and constructive engagement. Abandoning Afghanistan or its 40 million people during this critical phase could lead to unimaginable consequences. The international community must continue to provide support and assistance to avert any potential humanitarian disaster and help build a sustainable economy for the long-term development of Afghanistan. Simultaneously, Pakistan hopes that the Taliban authorities would be responsive to the expectations of the international community. The Afghan Interim Government must ensure inclusivity, respect for human rights of all Afghans, and effective counter-terrorism action.

There was a revival and rejuvenation of bilateral political & sectoral dialogues with all partners through high-level engagement & regular bilateral political consultations, which have allowed institutionalization of relationships.

Distinguished Participants,

Pakistan will continue to play its rightful role in the maintenance of international peace and security and advance the cause of sustainable development.

I have full confidence that the ISSI will continue to thrive, adapt, and remain at the forefront of strategic research and policy analysis.

I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the ISSI family on Golden Jubilee celebrations again, and conclude by reiterating the pledge that the Institute will continue to have our support and my patronage.

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