Remarks by DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood at the Inaugural Session of Islamabad Conclave

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Remarks by DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood at the Inaugural Session of Islamabad Conclave: 6 December 2023

Honourable Dr. Arif Alvi,
President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,
Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BoG ISSI,
Gen. Zubair Hayat, former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee,
Esteemed Speakers,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,

AoA and good morning!

It is a distinct privilege to welcome all the distinguished guests to the Institute of Strategic Studies for this third edition of “Islamabad Conclave.” This is the annual flagship event of ISSI, held in December every year.

We are deeply honoured that the Honourable President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi, has been able to take the time out and inaugurate the Conclave. We are profoundly grateful to you, Sir, for gracing the occasion. As always, our participants would hugely benefit from your wisdom and insightful reflections.

We are also thankful to all the esteemed speakers — from Pakistan and abroad — who would be sharing their perspectives during the various working sessions. Their views would enrich our deliberations as we explore some of the pressing issues of our times and search best ways for Pakistan to tackle them.

Last, but not the least, my sincere appreciation and thanks for the entire ISSI team that has worked tirelessly to put this all together, from conception to realization.

Distinguished participants,

The Institute of Strategic Studies, as you know, is one of Pakistan’s premier think-tanks. Since its establishment in1973, it has endeavoured to provide research-based inputs and serve as a platform for dialogue on matters related to foreign policy, national security, strategic stability, and regional and global environment.

In this Jubilee year of ISSI, we have sharpened our focus on bridging the gap that has traditionally existed between the research and policy communities; increased our interface with MoFA to align research and advocacy work with Pakistan’s foreign policy imperatives; enhanced outreach to key national stakeholders, including the youth, civil society, and the private sector; and strengthened collaboration with international partners, including counterpart think-tanks and Universities.

Upscaling our research work, we have also published 3 books and 2 special reports – piloted by each of our 5 Centres – during this year. This is over and above the regular work that the Institute does from releasing Issue Briefs and Monographs to hosting round tables, symposia, and international conferences.

Going forward, ISSI will particularly focus – among other things – on multi-stakeholder engagement for operationalization of Pakistan’s ‘pivot to geo-economics’; partnership with national think-tanks with niche area specialization, especially in the economic arena; closer engagement with next generation of security and IR scholars; and Pakistan’s ‘soft power’ potential to reinforce efforts projecting Pakistan’s multi-dimensional persona to the outside world. Our endeavours to influence and impact the policy process would continue apace.

Distinguished participants,

For this year, the thematic focus of Islamabad Conclave is on “Pakistan in a Changing World.” This is well-considered.

Throughout human history, change has been the only constant. The speed, depth and breadth of change in the world at this particular juncture, however, is breathtaking. It has been stated that the world is in a “hinge moment” — when one era is ending, and another era is taking shape. From war in Europe to genocide in Gaza, from deepening geo-strategic rivalries to unprecedented growth of new and emerging technologies, and from existential threat of climate change to green transition and digital transformation, the world we are living in is changing in profound ways. It would be unforgivable for any country to either be oblivious of this dynamic and far-reaching transformation, or remain static in its strategic outlook despite knowing about this change.

It is with this recognition that this year’s theme was chosen – with the idea of unpacking the multiple layers of change, their broader implications, and the best way forward for Pakistan.

Flowing from the Conclave’s overarching theme, the five working sessions will delve deeper into related sub-themes: The first session will focus on “Evolving geopolitical dynamics, emerging technologies and shifts in strategic thought.” Second on “Changing regional landscape – from Afghanistan to the Middle East.” Third on “Navigating complex geo-politics – accentuating pivot to geo-economics.” Fourth on “Comprehensive security in a world in flux.” And fifth on “Pakistan’s foreign policy in emerging world order.”

A formidable set of speakers – including senior-level practitioners (both serving and former), scholars, academics and area specialists – will further dissect various aspects of these sub-themes. In sum, we anticipate highly insightful sessions over the next 2 days – indeed a feast of diverse ideas and hopefully practical recommendations.

Before I conclude, I do also wish to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its consistent support, including in the convening of this Conclave.

I once again thank the Honourable President and all our distinguished participants and wish everyone fruitful deliberations during the Conclave.

I thank you!