Office of the Spokesman
Press Briefing on 09 February 2012
Let me begin by saying that Pakistan continues to be very active on the diplomatic front. Our Prime Minister paid a very successful official visit to Qatar on 6-8 February. The visit brought the two brotherly countries even closer.
Our Foreign Minister paid an official visit to Moscow on 7-9 February. The Foreign Minister’s indepth talks with her Russian counterpart, and her meetings at the State Duma reinforce our mutual desire to strengthen bilateral ties in all spheres to our mutual benefit. We are looking forward to welcoming the President of Russia in Pakistan for a Quadrilateral Summit during the second half of this year.
Tomorrow, the President of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa will arrive in Islamabad for a two-day state visit. Our distinguished guest will be given a very warm welcome on arrival in Islamabad. Pakistan-Sri Lanka enjoy excellent relations and these relations will continue strengthening in the years to come.
On 1 February 2012, the WTO Council for Trade in Goods approved the EU trade package for Pakistan. We appreciate the entire WTO membership for this. We are particularly thankful to EU member states for their commitment to help Pakistan through greater market access. On the other hand, Pakistan and Indonesia signed a Preferential Trade Agreement which should help enhance the bilateral trade. Pakistan’s foreign policy is now firmly aligned to complementing Pakistan’s development agenda. The Foreign office and our Missions abroad are particularly promoting this agenda with a clear sense of purpose and objectives.
Q & A Session
Q: What are your views on Congressional hearing on Balochistan. Don’t you think it is interference in Pakistan’s internal matter?
A: We have conveyed our concerns and raised this issue with the US authorities both in Washington and Islamabad. We believe Washington fully understands our position. The matter was clarified by the US State Department yesterday.
Q: After a hiatus of some weeks, drone attacks have started again. Your comments? What about reopening of NATO supply routes?
A: As for drone attacks, our position is clear. These attacks are unlawful and unacceptable. Regarding the reopening of the NATO supply routes, our parliamentary process is underway. We are awaiting policy directions from our Parliament to move forward.
Q: How far we are concerned about the global coverage of the situation in Balochistan? Why the situation has reached to this point? Secondly, do you think Pakistan’s voting in support of resolution on Syria, against the Chinese position, is a sign of lack of harmony between Pakistan and China at multilateral fora?
A: As I said earlier, we have raised this issue (Congressional hearing on Balochistan) with Washington. The US State Department understands our position. Regarding your second question, Pakistan has always underlined the importance of the principles of non-intervention and non-interference in internal affairs of states, respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, respect for human rights, as well as importance of dialogue and reconciliation for accommodation of legitimate aspirations through peaceful means. This has been our position regarding Syria as well. There was substantial and substantive amendment to the original draft resolution on Syria which enabled Pakistan to vote in favour of the draft resolution. As far as China’s veto is concerned, every country has its own valid reasons to vote in favour or against any draft resolution. It is not for me to comment as to why China vetoed that draft resolution. Pakistan – China relations are unique, and solid. One should not generalize things on the basis of voting on one Security Council resolution.
Q: There is a growing impression that the US would disallow Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline. Your comments?
A: There is no change or shift in our position regarding this project.
Q: But the US has indicated that they would impose sanctions on any bank which would provide funding for this project. How would Pakistan tackle this issue in future?
A: We are looking forward to the completion of the project by 2014. This project is important for us to meet our growing energy requirements. We are therefore, committed to the project.
Q: Would you brief us on the current status of IP Gas Pipeline?
A: For current status of the project, you may please contact the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources.
Q: The Foreign Minister is on official visit to Russia. Russia has expressed interest in TAPI and CASA-1000 projects. Have they also indicated interest in IP Gas project? When will Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan trilateral summit take place and what would be the agenda of the summit?
A: As far as your first question is concerned, Russia is interested in several energy projects in Pakistan. We hope that there would be some progress in the months ahead. Regarding the IP Gas Project, I don’t recall Russia engaging in this particular project. They have shown interest in CASA-1000 as well as TAPI. About your second question, a trilateral summit would be held in Islamabad on 16-17 February 2012. The trilateral mechanism between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran is important for us to discuss issues pertaining to cooperation on counter-terrorism and transnational organized crime including drug and human trafficking and border management.
Q: The US is increasing its pressure on Iran. If Iran retaliates by attacking Islamic countries Saudi Arabia and Qatar, what would be Pakistan’s position?
A: Let us not focus on hypothetical situations. We would like all the issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme to be resolved peacefully because we cannot afford another conflict in our region. We would always advise restraint and resolution of issues through dialogue.
Q: Was anything discussed regarding return of Afghan refugees to Afghanistan during the Foreign Minister’s visit to Afghanistan last week?
A: We are in touch with UNHCR on this issue. We would like Afghan refugees to go back but with honour and dignity.
Q: A serious situation has emerged in the Maldives, a SAARC member. How does Pakistan see this development in the Maldives? Can big neighbours of the Maldives jointly handle this situation?
A: As a matter of principle, we would not like to comment on internal matters of other states. As a brotherly country, we wish the people of the Maldives stability and prosperity.
Q: Marc Grossman met the Taliban leaders in Qatar before our Prime Minister’s visit to Doha. Can you confirm this? Did our Foreign Office receive any information about this meeting?
A: It is for US authorities to comment on the reported meeting. However, we have been kept informed by the US through diplomatic channels about the initial contacts with the Taliban.
Q: My question is regarding gas diplomacy. The US has indicated that they would not like Russian involvement in any gas project in the region. Do you have anything to say on this American concerns?
A: Different options are being considered for TAPI Gas Pipeline. Nothing is yet final. Russia is an important country in our common region. They have resources for investing in such projects. We would welcome Russia to participate in this project.
Q: Perhaps Pakistan may not be playing any role to create rapprochement between the US and the Taliban. But is Prime Minister’s visit to Qatar is just a coincidence when the US and the Taliban have just started the dialogue?
A: Just a coincidence. Summit level visits are organized much in advance.