Remarks by DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood at the 51st Foundation Day celebrations of ISSI, 25 June 2024

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Remarks by DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood at the 51st Foundation Day celebrations of ISSI, 25 June 2024

Honourable Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar,
Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister,
Ambassador Inam ul Haq, Former Foreign Minister,
Ambassador Syrus Sajjad Qazi, Foreign Secretary,
Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BoG, ISSI
Excellency Atadjan Movlamov, Dean of Diplomatic Corps,
Excellencies, Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Islamabad,
Distinguished Guests!

AoA and a very good morning.

It is a distinct privilege to welcome all the esteemed guests to the Institute of Strategic Studies for the commemoration of ISSI’s 51st anniversary. The ISSI family is delighted to have you in our midst on this joyous occasion.

We are deeply honoured that the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar — also the Patron of ISSI — has taken the time out of his busy schedule and graced the occasion. We are sincerely grateful to you, Sir, and look forward to hearing your enlightening views on Pakistan’s role and place in a rapidly transforming world.

There are several eminent personalities among our guests today, who have been associated with the Institute in distinct roles at different points in time. I take this opportunity to, once again, express the Institute’s abiding appreciation and gratitude for their valuable contributions. But for their hard work and wise stewardship at crucial junctures in this eventful journey, the ISSI would not be where it is today.

Distinguished guests,

Over the past several decades, the number and salience of think-tanks and research organizations across the globe has grown significantly. They now form an indispensable part of the policy eco-system — facilitating constructive engagement, generating ideas, conducting research, promoting dialogue, and impacting policy.

In the case of Pakistan, it was in June 1973 that the then President, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, directed to establish the Institute of Strategic Studies, as an “autonomous policy research, and analysis center.” The Institute was foreseen as a forum for initiating and carrying out studies and research on subjects related to Pakistan’s national security and defence as well as on international affairs and allied strategic subjects. Eversince, the Institute has worked assiduously to fulfil the role and responsibility envisioned for it at the time of its creation.

Commencing its journey from a small room on the 2nd floor in the Foreign Office, the ISSI has steadily progressed over the past five decades to become a formidable research organization and a reputable public sector think-tank. Its scope of work has progressively expanded to include relevant areas of policy significance — from security to foreign policy to economy to the environment to soft power.

Our Five Centers of Excellence — namely China Pakistan Study Center; India Study Center; Center for Afghanistan, Middle East & Africa; Arms Control and Disarmament Center; and Center for Strategic Perspectives — cover the world geographically and also focus on cross-cutting issues thematically.

Our Research Faculty — comprising skilled and motivated professionals — continuously endeavors to keep abreast of the latest developments and trends in their respective areas, produce quantitative and qualitative research, and generate realistic and practicable recommendations. Their dedication, enterprise, and innovative approach remain the most crucial factors in whatever the ISSI is able to achieve.

The ISSI’s journey has also been facilitated by the gracious support and patronage of the political and administrative leadership of the Foreign Ministry. Equally important has been the guidance from the ISSI Board of Governors, under the sagacious chairmanship of Ambassador Khalid Mahmood. I take this opportunity to thank the Ministry and the Board for being such pillars of strength for the ISSI, all along upholding its autonomous and non-partisan character.

Distinguished guests,

As for an overview of our work over the past one year, allow me to share that the ISSI meticulously and proactively pursued its key priorities. These included: bridging the gap between the research and policy communities; strengthening ISSI-MoFA interface to align research and advocacy work with Pakistan’s foreign policy; upscaling of research quality; enhanced outreach to key national stakeholders; increased collaboration with international partners; wider dissemination of the Institute’s work through the media and Social Media platforms; capacity-building of research faculty; and upgradation of ISSI premises and facilities.

Our thematic focus during the year remained on a wide range of subjects, including: (a) rapidly changing global and regional environment and its implications for Pakistan; (b) salience of ‘comprehensive’ security with economic and human security as its key components; (c) operationalization of ‘pivot to geo-economics’; (d) Pakistan’s policy approach towards major powers; (e) strong focus on Jammu & Kashmir dispute and more dedicated research efforts on India-related subjects; (f) situation in Afghanistan and its impact on the region; (g) developments in the Middle East and the genocidal  war against Palestinians in Gaza; (h) completion of 10 years of CPEC; (i) challenges of climate change and Pakistan’s contribution to global action; (j) evolving strategic thought and changing dynamics of strategic stability in South Asia; (k) Pakistan’s role in multilateral diplomacy; and (l) projection of Pakistan’s cultural heritage.

In terms of publications, the Institute’s flagship research Journal Strategic Studies, edited Books, Special Reports and Monographs, Issue Briefs, and Pivot Magazine analyzed global and regional developments and proposed a way forward for Pakistan.

Similarly, the Institute contributed to inclusive, multi-stakeholder dialogue by providing a platform for In-House Discussions, Roundtables, Seminars, and Conferences on relevant subjects. This not only contributed to the policy-formulation process but has also facilitated enhanced public engagement in policy discourse. It also helped in reinforcing the narrative on issues of core interest to Pakistan.

Distinguished guests,

Overall, the Institute organized around 130 events and published more than 150 Issue Briefs during the year from 1 July 2023 to end-June 2024. Moreover, the 3rd Edition of ISSI’s annual flagship event, the Islamabad Conclave, was successfully held in December 2023, with the thematic focus on “Pakistan in a Changing World.”

The ISSI also instituted separate structured Dialogues with the ASEAN Committee in Islamabad (ACI); with the Heads of Mission of Africa; and with the Heads of Mission of Central Asia and Azerbaijan. In October 2023, the “ASEAN Corner” was established in the ISSI Library.

During the year, the Institute organised 2 International Conferences in collaboration with counterpart institutions from the United States and Germany.

Bilateral Dialogues were also held with counterparts from a diverse range of countries – from Afghanistan to Iran to China to Malaysia to Azerbaijan.

Our faculty members represented Pakistan in International Conferences and Regional Dialogues in China, Russia, Turkiye, Qatar, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Iran.

Some of our researchers also attended courses in Azerbaijan, Russia, and Switzerland – which gave them valuable international exposure and enhanced their intellectual capacities.

Consistent with the new vision articulated last year, the ISSI deepened its engagement with the youth, civil society, and business community.

We organized the first-ever ISSI ‘Next-Generation International Security Experts Conference’ in March 2024, followed by a ‘Next Generation Strategic Cohort 2024’ in May 2024. The papers submitted by the young scholars in the March Conference are being published in a book form, to be unveiled in this event. Many of the authors are also present with us today.

Several events were organized in collaboration with civil society organizations, especially in the run-up to CoP-28.

Going forward, we will be unveiling 3 new books and 2 Special Reports today:

From the India Study Centre, the book titled: Critical Issues Facing South Asia: Politics, Security, & Non-Traditional Challenges.

From the Centre for Strategic Perspectives, the book titled: Pakistan’s Pathway to Development: Integrated Economy, Environment & Society.

From the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East & Africa, the book titled: The Return of the Taliban: International & Regional Perspectives.

From the China-Pakistan Study Centre, a Special Report on Shanghai Cooperation Organization: A Focus on Growth, Evolution, and Collaboration.

From the Arms Control & Disarmament Centre, a Special Report on India’s Maritime Buildup: Implications for the Indian Ocean.

These Books and Special Reports would be formally launched in separate events subsequently, with the participation of authors and contributors to the extent possible.

As I close, I pay a special tribute to the entire ISSI team — including the Directors, the Researchers, and the Administrative personnel — for their invaluable contributions and for their unwavering commitment to take the Institute to further heights.

I once again thank everyone for joining us today!