ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that promotion of relations with countries in Africa would be the new focus of Pakistan’s foreign policy operations.
Mr Khan was speaking at the concluding session of Africa-focused Envoys Conference at the Foreign Office. The conference was held to deliberate on measures for strengthening relations with African countries and diversifying and deepening political, economic, security and socio-cultural ties.
One of the conclusions of the conference was that Pakistan needed to have a robust engagement with Africa.
The prime minister regretted that ties with African countries did not get priority in Pakistan’s external relations in the past because of lack of innovation and creativity in running the foreign policy.
Citing examples of China and Turkey, he said that Pakistan now needed to concentrate on Africa. He said Pakistani diplomats were capable, but for bringing back focus on Africa, they needed vision and the urge to take these ties forward.
Africa is the second largest continent of the world with 20 per cent of the world’s land mass and 54 sovereign states, with 1.2 billion people and the largest youth population on the globe. Most of the African countries are witnessing stable growth. The region has a collective GDP of over $2.3 trillion and an import market of around $500bn.
“We believe that there is a tremendous opportunity for Pakistani goods and services in view of growing middle-class consumer market there,” PM Khan said.
He also recalled the transformation in Pakistan’s foreign policy during his government. He said Pakistan unlike in the past was now playing the role of a conciliator instead of taking sides in conflicts.
He said his government was striving to have better relations with all other countries. He reminded how his government maintained a better balance in ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, while further strengthening relations with Turkey.
The prime minister said his government was pursuing an independent foreign policy and now no one would be able to use Pakistan for fighting their own wars. He regretted that governments in the past engaged in transactional relations — fighting for others in return for aid. “This hurt us a lot,” he maintained, adding: “We promised what we could not deliver; they wanted us to win war for them. That’s why there was persistent pressure to do more. It hurt Pakistan’s esteem.”