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Terror war, economic revival top priorities: PM Nawaz

28 December, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Friday said the war against terrorism and economic revival were the main priorities of the government.

He said Pakistan wanted to promote peaceful and friendly relations with the international community, particularly with its neighbours, and will play its due role for promoting regional and international peace and enhance mutual cooperation through its Foreign Office.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the new block of Foreign Office building, which has been attributed to former foreign minister Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, the prime minister said that Pakistan was playing its due role for promoting regional and international peace. He said the new government was focusing on a four-point agenda, which includes weeding out terrorism, revival of economy, overcoming the energy crisis and promoting trade at the international level instead of getting aid. He hoped that Pakistan will overcome its challenges with the cooperation of international community.

Nawaz said Pakistan was working enthusiastically for strengthening its relations with its neighbours, including India and Afghanistan. "We are committed to further expand our strategic ties with China and rebuild relations with the United States on the basis of mutual respect and equality besides strengthening ties with Islamic countries," he maintained.

The prime minister said the world had become a village and Pakistan cannot afford isolation at any level. "It is the responsibility of our diplomats, who are our ambassadors, to work hard for strengthening the relations with international community, particularly with neighbours, and promote trade," he added.

The premier stressed the need to bring changes in the traditional diplomacy to make it according to the needs of the present era. He said for any state, diplomacy was the first line of defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the country's diplomats play an indispensable role in any nation's efforts to promote peace and foster regional and international cooperation.

Nawaz said conventional diplomacy had now acquired new dimensions and specialised streams like multi and bilateral diplomacy and economy coupled with public diplomacy and services streams were now more relevant. He mentioned the important part played by successive generations of the country's diplomats, including Jamshed Marker who was a non-career diplomat, Agha Shahi, an ICS officer, and Sheharyar Khan, a career diplomat, who all worked for the advancement of Pakistan's key national objectives.

He expressed confidence that this institution would adapt to the changing paradigms in diplomacy and continue to adapt itself to the rapidly changing global environment and further promote the core national interests.

Quoting Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the premier said, "Our object should be peace within and peace without," and added that it still remains the defining element of foreign policy. He said the Quaid made it clear that Pakistan wanted to live peacefully and maintain friendly relations with its immediate neighbours and with the world at large. He said one of the most distinguishing features of the present times was the peaceful democratic transition in Pakistan. "The vibrancy of today's Pakistan is further reflected in an independent judiciary, a free media and a dynamic civil society," he added.

"While strengthening of democracy is indeed a matter of pride, we remain conscious that our nation also confronts formidable foes the menace of extremism and terrorism and a challenging economic situation. Accordingly, our government's priorities in the domestic arena include: fighting terrorism, reviving the economy, resolving the energy crisis, and improving governance," the prime minister said.

He said the country's foreign policy was based on four key priorities, i.e. building a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood, reaching out to regional and international partners, focussing on "trade, not aid", and lastly, developing a consensus-based approach to counter terrorism.

Nawaz said in order to realise the policy objectives, important initiatives had been taken to improve relations with Afghanistan, resume dialogue with India, strengthen the strategic partnership with China, re-build relations with the US on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest, engagement with Europe, and enhance solidarity with the Islamic world. "Our emphasis on economic dimensions of the national agenda is reflected in all these interactions. The recent approval of GSP Plus by EU testifies to this fact. In short, our message to the world is of peace and friendship," he added.

Nawaz said in a globalised world, no one can afford isolation at any level. He said as public servants, isolation would make them oblivious to the needs of the people while at the state level isolation leads to segregation from the world community. He said that an aura of elitism was no longer relevant and the foreign service had to align itself towards public service. He said officers and staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were the ambassadors of Pakistan and it was through them that the world community interacts with the country.

He said in modern ages, political diplomacy goes hand in hand with economic diplomacy, and stressed that the missions abroad must enhance their skills of economic diplomacy."Their role in the enhancement of trade, investment and economic cooperation is critical and would be a yardstick by which their performance would be evaluated," he said.

The premier said the Foreign Office had to further strengthen institutional linkages with ministries of Commerce, Economic Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, Interior and organisations like the Board of Investment and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan in order to build a positive image of Pakistan and to promote and safeguard economic interests of the country. He said after devolution of powers to the provinces, the Foreign Office has to interact with the provincial governments more often and facilitate the provinces to establish contacts with other countries.

He expressed the hope that the foreign office would harness its economic potential in tandem with other ministries and provincial governments in a proactive manner to attract foreign investment and to adopt a cohesive approach for implementing a positive advocacy campaign for the important role in the fight against terrorism. He said the country's missions also need to pay special attention to the needs of overseas Pakistanis and should increase their accessibility towards the Pakistani community and adopt welcoming and responsive attitude towards them.

He termed Sahibzada Yaqub a rare example of the finest soldiers becoming an outstanding diplomat and rounding it all by learning and scholarship that earned him respect of the people in Pakistan and abroad. He expressed gratitude to the friendly countries who had graciously contributed to this building's interior decoration, and said the elegant chandeliers from Turkey were one such shining example.

Former foreign secretary and ambassador-designate to the United States Jalil Abbas Jillani in his remarks highlighted the salient features of the foreign policy, and said the Foreign Office was playing its due role to strengthen relations with the international community and neighbours.

He said positive results had been achieved due to new foreign policy guidelines given by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.Earlier, the prime minister inaugurated the new block of the Foreign Office building. The ceremony was also attended by Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, diplomats and officers of the Foreign Office.

End.

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