Record of the Press Briefing by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar 13 November 2011

Islamabad: A very good afternoon and welcome to everyone.

Let me once again apologize for ruining your Sunday. I guess information is always ahead of us. What we are going to talk about is already there for public consumption. Some of you have been part of what we will be talking about. But we thought it would be a good opportunity to be able to at least recount how we view some of the important engagements within the foreign policy realm of Pakistan.

I think during the last two months, some major events have been almost clustered; the Istanbul Conference; and then the trilateral with Afghanistan and Turkey about which I have already talked during press conference in Lahore.

In today’s sitting, I would also be concentrating on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization whose Heads of Government meeting took place in St. Petersburg. Then there has been the SAARC Summit that was followed by all of us very keenly as SAARC is an organization which we own.

It is an organization which we feel gives us the opportunity to take our destiny into our own hands. So the Prime Minister led the Pakistan delegation to the 17th Summit held recently in Addu, the Maldives.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an important forum and is emerging as an ever more important organization. Pakistan has long maintained that the SCO will be well served to have Pakistan as its full member just as the SCO can be helpful in our efforts to engage with the Central Asian Republics which is an emerging region.

Let me say that this is a point that most countries of the region share with Pakistan. I think here we see an opportunity that we have not seen in many years. It is recognition of Pakistan’s enhanced role that we have not seen in many years. And I hope that as we go forward, we will be able to realize this goal, within the present government’s time.

The Prime Minister met his counterparts on the sidelines of the SCO. He met the Russian Prime Minister and the Chinese Premier. Both of these meetings were very useful and constructive. They were forward-looking.

We can say that this Government has been able to achieve new heights in our relationship with Russia. This is demonstrated very well by the fact that there was the first official visit by the President of Pakistan to Russia in thirty years.

This was also demonstrated by the fact that Prime Minister Gilani’s meeting with his Russian counterpart was extremely useful. We always talk about being able to convert the good will that exists in the diplomatic and political ties into economic ties for the benefit of the people of Pakistan.

And within that realm, I would like to point out two important developments. This includes Russian commitment of investing US$ 500 million in CASA1000 and a similar amount in the Pakistan Steel Mill to improve and enhance its capacity.

The Prime Minister’s interaction with his Chinese counterpart was also very substantive. You know we have a longstanding relationship with China which is an excellent example of a strategic relationship.

Within this context, they had discussions on cooperation within the field of energy, infrastructure and agriculture. We all know that we are also keenly working on a currency swap agreement with our Chinese friends.

Now coming to the SAARC Conference in Addu City, the Maldives. First of all, let me emphasize that Pakistan puts a lot of emphasis on the SAARC process and on SAARC as an organization. SAARC presents an opportunity to lead the socio-economic transformation that Asia or South Asia is just beginning to feel.

I am sure that you all followed the statements made by each of the Heads of the Governments of SAARC member countries. You can see a new vitality and enthusiasm emerging in SAARC. I have returned from this Summit much more hopeful on the future direction of SAARC.

It is really up to us, as they said, about taking our destiny in our hands. It is for SAARC leaders to determine what they want SAARC to be. SAARC in the next ten years can emerge as a model which is comparable may be to ASEAN or the EU or whatever other models exist; or SAARC can create a new model which might lead the South Asian socio-economic transformation.

Pakistan looks with great interest and enthusiasm at China’s effort to engage with SAARC at a deeper level. We also look positively at the interest of countries like Turkey to become observers. Pakistan pursued that goal during this conference and we certainly have something positive to report back.

The moratorium on admitting observer states has almost been lifted now and a study on the role of observer states will end by June 2012; and after that this door will Inshallah open.

I know that most of you would have gone through the agreements that were signed during the SAARC summit, but I would still want to emphasize them as they point to the future direction of SAARC. These include the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters.

Now this would be a first in the regional context, because there are not many regional natural disaster rapid response systems that come to mind. Then there is the SAARC multilateral arrangement on the Recognition of Poverty Assessment; there is also the SAARC Arrangement on Implementation of Regional Standards and lastly the SAARC Seed Bank Agreement.

All of these give us the opportunity to be able to ensure conformity of standards within the SAARC Region. So that when you want to invest and trade, it is easier for you. Let me also inform you that Pakistan proposed the establishment of SAARC Regional Bank. This is a proposal from Pakistan and we hope that as we move forward, we will be able to work on it with SAARC countries.

And now coming to some sideline events to the SAARC Summit which did not remain sidelined but took the centre stage. Let me first of all express the hope that in ten years from today, when there is a SAARC summit or a meeting, the centre stage will not be taken by the meeting between the Pakistani and the Indian Prime Minister.

That is a hope which has a double entendre; first that SAARC will have become so powerful and vital that it would play the leading role; and two that Pakistan-India relations will be so normalized that their meetings would be like any other meeting between South Asian leaders. So let me comment on the meeting between the two Prime Ministers. As you know, the format of the meeting was that delegation level talks took place for a bit, then the Prime Ministers met separately one-on-one for thirty or thirty-five minutes and then the two foreign ministers joined them for talks.

We understand that India-Pakistan dialogue process in nothing new. It has been going on, on and off, for many years. So a lot of people ask what is new this time and what is the reason for so much hope? The forward trajectory or the positive trajectory is the reason for hope. And let me take you a few months back to Thimphu, to what we like to refer as the Thimphu spirit which was the start of this process to restart the Dialogue Process.

At Thimphu, the meeting between Prime Minster Manmohan and Prime Minister Gilani ensured that the dialogue process was restarted. What were the objectives at that time? There were two main objectives though both may be not very tangible.

One was to reduce the trust deficit that existed between the two countries; the other was in some ways to be able to improve the environment; to make the environment that exists between the two countries conducive for a result-oriented dialogue.

So if we were to do a recheck today on where we stand, I would very confidently say that we have been successful in reducing the trust deficit. So therefore we are in a positive zone; and Addu onwards, we are in the zone where trust deficit is negative; we are in the zero zone where trust deficit does not exist or has been reduced and has shrunk to a large extent. And now we have to start building the trust.

Secondly, why do we need a conducive environment? Do we need a conducive environment to just keep talking to each other? We need a conducive environment so that it can be an enabler to take us to a result-oriented dialogue process which is then able to resolve the festering disputes between the two countries. Now, all of you must have seen the statements that came from the two Prime Ministers. It is clear that when an engagement takes place between the two Prime Ministers, they say what they mean.

So when they come out they say that they have discussed all outstanding issues between Pakistan and India including terrorism, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and that they want to move towards, here I am amalgamating the two statements because this is what the Prime Minster of Pakistan said and then the Prime Minister of India said, that they want to move towards a result-oriented dialogue.

This is certainly a way forward. We told the Prime Ministers that at Thimphu they gave us directions, we followed those directions and we did a reasonably good job in achieving some of the milestones that they had put in front of us. So the Thimphu spirit has been converted into the Addu hope or the Addu resolve to get involved in a result oriented-dialogue process which is uninterrupted and uninterruptible.

So you can actually see results that have been evasive so far for so many years. And why have they been evasive? Because, even in the words of the Indian Prime Minister, they have been accident-prone; they have been interrupted.

We have to ensure that we can engage with each other as mature responsible countries in a fashion which is result-oriented in order to achieve results for the people of Pakistan and the people of India; and it can become a win-win. We have invested far too much in seeking hostility towards each other and far less in seeking peace with each other.

I told my Indian counterpart that I was competing with him on positivity, not on negativity; nor on statements or counter-statements but on moving forward. I think this is the spirit that we see reciprocated. If this is anything to go by, we should keep ourselves to the statements that came by the two Prime Ministers after the meeting.

It was clear in the two statements that the forward direction was positive and it was going to be much more constructive and much more result-oriented InshAllah. We must be able to show tangible outcomes. We have shown some tangible outcomes. I don’t think I need to repeat those.

Now going to Afghanistan. I want to emphasize the meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and President Karzai in particular because unfortunately there was some irresponsible media that misreported this meeting. The meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and President Karzai was held in a positive atmosphere. It was a frank discussion. That is what we need; deep, honest, frank discussions.

The Prime Minister made it very clear to President Karzai that he and his government as well as President Zardari had invested personally in this relationship and were taking it forward. President Karzai agreed that Afghanistan and Afghan Government had never seen this kind of response from the Pakistan government as they had seen in this democratic dispensation. Unfortunately, there were a few incidents which came in the way of the trust we were building.

We have agreed both within the trilateral process and the bilateral interaction between President Zardari and President Karzai, as well as within the bilateral process that took place between Prime Minister Gilani and President Karzai, that it is within Pakistan’s own interest that it seek peace and stability in Afghanistan.

I want to make it very clear that it is pragmatic, it is reality-based; and it is selfish. It is not selfless because if there is no peace and stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan will never be able to seek peace and stability within its borders. We want a stable prosperous Afghanistan in a stable prosperous region. We are ready to bend backwards for this.

When we say that Afghanistan peace process should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, we ask President Karzai what does he seek from Pakistan and that he should let us know that directly and not through public statements. As that was the effort that the Pakistani Government was trying to make for many months, we had achieved some success in that.

I would look at that meeting in a very positive light, because when neighbours run into any type of problems, the only thing is to sit across the table and talk them out. I think we have had two very good opportunities to talk it out; first between President Zardari and President Karzai in Istanbul and now the meeting between the Prime Ministers at Addu. I think we are moving forward on re-engaging with our Afghan brothers with the level of trust that we have been able to build.

Questions and Answers

Q 1: My question relates to Bangladesh role in the WTO. When you had returned from New Delhi you had indicated India’s willingness not to raise objections in the WTO. If a similar assurance had been made by Bangladesh, why was it not made public? And two: the Indian Prime Minster when he was in the air, again put conditions for visit to Pakistan.

When the Indians articulate their policy in private or in public, they stick to their position. We heard the Prime Minister and you at the Maldives but we did not hear the issue of prisoners being raised or that of draconian laws in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, then mass graves.

There are so many occasions on which we want the Pakistani leadership to talk about these graves publicly. Then there is Samjhota in which Pakistanis lost loved ones. You have to explain why these issues that Pakistan has been standing for are not being heard anymore?

A 1: To answer you first question as to why we did not make the Bangladesh support public; it was because we were expecting Bangladesh’s support all along. Bangladesh had not blocked the waiver earlier on; India had. India had blocked it and when they decided not to block it anymore and did so proactively, there was need for announcement.

When India decided not to block, there were some concerns that Bangladesh might, as it has some textile concerns that we know of. When we met the Bangladesh Prime Minster and Foreign Minister at Perth, the Prime Minister took it up with her and I raised it with the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister. It was clarified that they would not stand in the way; that they would not block it.

Then they went to extent of conveying this through our High Commissioner in Dhaka. Unfortunately, they claim accidentally, these instructions had not reached Geneva on time. So when the meeting of the Committee on Trade in Goods took place, their Mission said they had not received instructions so they would not be able to support.

When we met them again in Addu, we obviously took it up with them very forcefully and they said that it was at worst an administrative slip. They assured us that they would not block the waiver at the WTO. This is something on which I gave a statement in Addu that it was an accident and that the Bangladeshis have no intention of blocking us any further.

This is a victory of Pakistan’s diplomacy to get the support of over 150 countries for the kind of access that we are looking for. It might not be the type of access that we are looking for like the GSP Plus that we hope we will be getting in 2014, but it is still market access and it will still enable our people to reach out to these markets in a more efficient manner.

It will enable investors to employ people in Pakistan. We take these matters very seriously. There are people who think that this is too less to waste your political capital on, but I think market access is never too less to waste you political capital on. With regard to Bangladesh, I believe once a commitment is made at that level, we remain positive.

On the Indian Prime Minister and his preconditions for visit to Pakistan, his saying that more needs to be done; now we say that more needs to be done on all accounts. Within the UN, we have raised the question of mass graves and abuses that have happened in Kashmir. It is not hidden from the world. It is not hidden from the world press. It was also discussed in the British Parliament. You need to build your cases and if they are built on their own they are there for the world to see.

Now on the question of Samjhota. If you followed any of the nearly 15 interviews that I gave in New Delhi, my plea was on the positive side and not on the tit-for-tat side, and as I said we are competing on positivity and not on you-hold-your-position-and-we-hold-our-position. Yes we have done that for sixty years and have done a remarkable job at that.

Now on Samjhota, I told them that if you get exasperated on the Mumbai Trial, Samjhota happened months earlier than that. How come we are not showing our exasperation as you are? Because we have a reality check that the judicial process in India is very similar to the judicial process in Pakistan; and we know how these processes work.

I can confirm to you that within the meetings, the Indians and Indian media also were fairly satisfied on Mumbai. I did not see Mumbai being raised as it was raised in New Delhi for instance. Because there has been progress. Because now they are the ones who have to give dates. Our interior Minister is willing to go there for a dialogue in which the issue of prisoners, the issue of visas and all such similar issues are discussed. I like to look at it in the perspective of everything at its own time, at its own place.

When the Prime Minister of Pakistan comes out saying that we have discussed everything including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, it is not for him to say the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was discussed 25 minutes out of the 35 minutes or 5 minutes out of the 35 minutes. Clearly, there is no question that today it is recognized as a festering problem between the two countries and when we say that we want a result-oriented dialogue process, it is results that Pakistan is looking for.

I hope I am right when I see it as a convergence that it is in everybody’s interest to start resolving these problems. The region, as it is emerging, there will be different realities. Today’s realities are different from may be those of ten years ago. It is these new realities which are going to determine our behaviour, our actions for the future.

Q 2: What are Pakistan’s major achievements in this last one year? With the New Year coming, what are Pakistan’s diplomatic goals? There exist a number of mechanisms – quadrilateral and trilateral. Do you think there is need for new mechanisms like China-Pakistan-Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia-Pakistan-Afghanistan or India-Pakistan-Afghanistan?

A 2: To you last question, everything is possible and everything should be possible. We should be broad in our vision. If I were to answer all your questions, it would take two hours and we do not have that kind of time. We have some new relationship developing at a pace that has never been seen before, may be for decades. For instance, during the last year, if you were to ask me, our relationship with Russia has completely changed.

Our ties with China have only deepened. Our institutionalized dialogue with the European Union at the Summit level, at the strategic dialogue level has improved. We are seeking trade access; we are seeking GSP Plus in future. With India, we are back on the talking table. We are going beyond that, as I said, we look at this as an environment to be an enabler to achieve results.

As the Prime Minster of Pakistan is using the word “constructive” Dialogue Process and the Prime Minster of India is using the word “result-oriented”. I see a convergence there. I do not see it as entering into a talk shop and just congratulating ourselves. If you look at the region that we inhabit, our relationship with the Central Asian Republics has come a long way.

There has been deep investment there. Tomorrow, the Turkmen President will be coming to Pakistan. Some are old beginnings and may be nothing exceptionally new. But it is different at the level of contact and how close it is. I have visited Astana twice in the last 8 months. I have visited Kyrgyzstan. I have visited every capital in Central Asia. This shows also the future direction of the region.

If there is a theme, the corner stone of our policy and also as the New Year’s resolution, it is to live in peace and harmony with our neighbours. Because if we cannot ensure peace and harmony in our neighbourhood and with our neighbour, we will forever remain a dependent country. We will not be able to realize our goals, our aspirations. We will not be able to realize our potential that we continue to talk about. Let me refer to what we saw in the Maldives.

I would like to commend the Government of the Maldives for the success of the SAARC Summit. They have been able to convert their potential of tourism into a real opportunity. We have seen it. It is tangible. Their people are employed because of that. For us to be able to do such a thing we have to learn to live at peace with our neighbours, within and without.

Q 3: Did we raise the issue of the three to four million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, who control 99.9 percent of Pakistan’s economy and 90 percent of the land in KPK?

A 3: Pakistan has repeatedly raised this question at every forum. At the Istanbul Conference, I referred to the Afghan refugees in Pakistan. When the world asks us to do more, we have stated that it is clear who has done more. We have hosted more than 5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The People of Pakistan have carried this burden with a degree of respect even at the cost of sacrificing a great deal.

The refugees’ dignified return should be part of the overall process. When the world talks about Afghanistan, this is among the first and foremost points that we raise. We have been hosting millions of refugees on the Pakistani territory but we insist on their dignified return. We have played a good host and continue to have a big heart but not at the cost of our interests.

But I completely disagree about the figures you have quoted – the 99.9 percent or 90 percent. We insist that there should be stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. So it is important for the Afghan refugees to return. This is one of the points that came up in the discussions in Pak-Afghan meetings on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit.

Q 4: In your opening remarks, one buzz word was missing i.e. Jammu and Kashmir. Secondly, Prime Minister Putin has come up with a proposal between Asia and African countries. How does Pakistan view this proposal? And, in the context of SAARC you have talked about taking our destiny in our hands, but it is India that is taking control of this organization. How would you describe the relationship between Pakistan and India? Do you consider it an adversarial neighbour?

A 4: Kashmir to me is not a buzz word. The Jammu and Kashmir dispute cannot ever be described as a buzz word. For Pakistan, Kashmir is far more important than a buzz word. In my opening statement, I have said that we had discussion on everything and had referred to Jammu and Kashmir within that.

As did the Prime Minister. You were the person standing right in front of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister referred to Jammu and Kashmir that you are now referring to as the buzz word.

On the Russian proposal, we have always been supportive of any South-South cooperation and Pakistan itself feels that it must reach out to Africa. Pakistan feels that there are far too many opportunities for cooperation within the Asian region. We would be supportive of any initiative that is a win-win for the region. I said that it is my hope that SAARC itself becomes so important that that will take the centre stage. We all have some aspirations.

When we work towards some goal we are working for some aspiration; we hope that Allah will help us. We hope that in the next ten years Pakistan-India adversarial relationship will cease to exist. I feel that whether you want to term us as neighbours or adversaries, what we are cannot be changed. We are neighbours and we will remain neighbours.

Now can we aspire to pursue good-neighbourly relations with India? We are aspiring today to pursue good neighbourly relations till the time we are able to resolve issues, what you have called the buzz word or other issues among us. We feel that we are in our right to pursue good neighbourly relations with India, to purse a different dimension of relationship with India.

What we have been able to achieve is to reduce the trust deficit, to start building the trust, and to improve the environment enough where it is conducive and can act as an enabler for result-oriented discussion on all disputes including the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.

And on the question of terrorism, we are the ones who have suffered the most. We have made the largest contribution towards fighting this menace. It is a problem for us. It is a problem for the region and the world. We should move out of these dated frames.

Q 5: You have spoken about peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region. How does Iran figure in all of this? With TAPI re-emerging, does that exclude Iran? On IAEA’s latest reports, does it mean that new sanctions will be imposed on Iran?

A 5: Our position on Iran is that Iran is Pakistan’s neighbour. We are pursuing good friendly relation with all our neighbours. I have already said that unless we reach out to all our neighbours, we will be creating problems for ourselves. What has been bequeathed to my generation has been worse than before. We should move forward.

We don’t want Pakistan to be pulled back. We need to have a very clear policy. We are ready to bend backwards, undertake diplomacy proactively so that we coexist peacefully with our neighbours. There are number of regions like ASEAN that have disputes. But they continue to work with each other.

They have not made their progress and prosperity and the development of their people a hostage to their disputes. We cannot make ourselves hostages to these disputes, nor can we allow these disputes to fester. We cannot resolve these disputes militarily. Our only option is to resolve these disputes through dialogue.

In the context of TAPI and IPI, Pakistan works within the parameters of UN sanctions. We are energy deficient and we are pro-actively pursuing access to gas which includes the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, as well as TAPI. You will see some movement on this tomorrow.

Q 6: Would you take up the issue of Brazil’s role in the WTO during your visit to South America? The Indian Prime Minister has said that another Mumbai type attack will affect relations with Pakistan. Also in talking about all countries in the region, you have missed out on the United States. Do you have the same policy of friendly relations with the US after a number of incidents?

A 6: I do not know that Brazil is opposing us in the WTO. To the best of my information, Brazil is not among those countries which are likely to oppose us. Brazil is an emerging economy and country within the South American region. We wish to reach out more to them than we have in the past. This is certainly a priority area. But again, everything cannot be a priority for a country like Pakistan that has resource constraints. Brazil, however, is certainly a country that we want to reach out to.

The United States is present in the region but is not part of the region. When we say, we want to reach out to our neighbours, I literally mean it. If you want to pursue your natural capacities and convert the potential that we always talk about, into reality, we should be strengthened from within the region. If you want to continue a policy of animosity towards your neighbours, you will not be able to pursue that.

With the US, we pursue good friendly relations because they claim that they are here for peace and stability. We also pursue peace and stability in the region. We have had a rough patch over the past few months. But we had a good opening with our interaction in New York, which culminated with the visit of the Secretary of State to Pakistan.

In New York, we had told them that we wanted a policy level dialogue and that is what we got in her visit Islamabad. We need to have a dialogue which can then be operationalize. With them it is not about agreeing what we have to do. We have similar goals and objectives in the region. It is about what comes before, what comes after and what are operational details; we are working on it. We hope that we will have better times than we have in the past.

On the Indian Prime Minister’s Statement

I am not going to comment on each and every statement. The interaction that we had was exceptionally positive. He called the Pakistani Prime Minster a man of peace. The interaction between Prime Minister Gilani and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh included about 30 minutes of one-on-one meeting.

When the two Prime Ministers met in Thimphu, a breakthrough was made that led to engagement. We are now seeing results of that meeting. We wanted that environment to be changed and the difficulties being caused to end. The pace required to move forward is now available.

The level at which the Foreign Ministers were involved was extremely positive. The same thing has been said by Prime Minister in front of the entire press corps. What we heard from him was very positive. This takes us to a positive trajectory. When he says that he want to come to Pakistan after some movement, it shows they are looking at a result-oriented dialogue.

For more information, contact:
Syed Haider Ali Jafri
Personal Secretary
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 921 0335 and 9056604

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