Bilawal rules out any meeting between Shehbaz, Modi in Sept
Says Indian politicians’ statements are stumbling block in talks resumption
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Identifying Islamophobic statements by the Indian politicians as a stumbling block in the resumption of a dialogue between Pakistan and India, Foreign Minister (FM) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said there is no likelihood of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September, reported 24NewsHD TV channel on Saturday.
Talking to media on the sidelines of Shangai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) Foreign Ministers’ Council meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Bilawal Bhutto said it became difficult for Pakistan to hold ‘constructive’ talks with its neighbour following the revocation of special status of occupied Kashmir by India in August 2019.
Bilawal meets Kyrgyz counterpart
The foreign minister also met with his counterpart from Kyrgyzstan at Tashkent and discussed with him matters of mutual interest.
Chinese FM calls for efforts to deepen cooperation along CPEC
China has assured its continued support to Pakistan in safeguarding its sovereignty, territorial integrity and playing a more important role in regional and international affairs.
The assurance was given by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a meeting with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on the sidelines of the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in Tashkent.
The Chinese Foreign Minister called for efforts to deepen cooperation along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Describing the two countries as real friends and good brothers, he said regardless of changes in the domestic and international situation, China and Pakistan unswervingly safeguard their friendship and support each other on issues involving their respective core interests and common concerns.
He said China supports its companies to invest in Pakistan and is willing to import more high-quality agricultural products from Pakistan.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in his remarks said Pakistan always regards the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries as the cornerstone of its foreign relations.
He said Pakistan will accelerate the construction of CPEC and is ready to actively discuss its extension into Afghanistan.
Pakistan to partner SCO agenda for region’s collective good: Pakistan
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said Pakistan would always be a strong partner in all endeavours of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) aimed at promoting collective good of the region.
Addressing the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting on Friday, Bilawal said SCO’s contributions to regional security and stability as well as to the shaping of economic and information environment would continue to grow.
He mentioned that SCO was a formidable trans-regional, multilateral Organization – representing 41 percent of global population, 22 percent of world’s landmass, and 23 percent of global GDP.
He said the world was facing planet, today, is facing an existential threat in the shape of climate change.
The foreign minister said the overall economic, social and psychological impact of Covid-19 pandemic was yet to be fully grasped, let alone mitigated.
He mentioned the re-emergence of military conflict in different parts of the world and unprecedented hike of fuel and food prices as challenges taking a heavy toll on nations and citizens across the globe.
He said Pakistan believed that the best course in these turbulent times was to renew faith in the time-honoured principles of inter-state relations and to reinforce the resilience of institutions.
“The centrality of the principles of non-use or threat of use of force, respect for sovereignty and territory integrity, pacific settlement of disputes, and equal security for all, cannot be stressed enough,” he said.
He said it was the considered view that peaceful coexistence and cooperation – and not confrontation – must be the key drivers of global politics.
On Afghanistan, he said after 40 years of conflict and instability, there was finally a prospect of forging sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“We acknowledge the steps taken to improve the security environment and fight the terrorist threat from Daesh,” he said.
Bilawal said Pakistan had extended humanitarian relief assistance and continues to open up avenues for more trade, transit trade, cross-border facilitation, and connectivity.
He stressed it was equally important to defreeze Afghanistan’s financial assets.
He said the international community must also maintain constructive engagement and practical cooperation with Afghanistan.
Bilawal said the Afghan interim authorities, for their part, should take steps to address the international community’s expectations about inclusivity; respect for the rights of all Afghans, including girls’ education; and effective counter-terrorism actions.
He said the SCO Afghanistan Contact Group was a useful platform that can also be utilized for enhanced outreach.
“For its part, Pakistan will remain strongly committed to a peaceful, stable, sovereign, prosperous and connected Afghanistan and work with international partners to advance our shared objectives,” he said.
He said terrorism was one of the major threats that the international community continued to face.
He said the valiant people, armed forces, and law enforcement personnel had made tremendous sacrifices in Pakistan’s determined fight to eliminate this scourge.
“Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state-terrorism perpetrated against people living under foreign occupation in disputed territories,” he said.
He said the phenomenon of terrorism continued to evolve, the growing levels of intolerance, emergence of extremist and hegemonic ideologies, and Islamophobic impulses, have imparted a different level of lethality to this threat.
Bilawal said the growth and prosperity of SCO region was also dependent on critical drivers such as e-commerce, digitalization of businesses, innovation, and security of international supply chains.
He called for deepening interactions between the business communities through the SCO business council.
The foreign minister said to advance this objective, Pakistan would be hosting an interaction between SCO businessmen and entrepreneurs by end 2022.
He said SCO region also faced an urgent need for a development funding mechanism.
Bilawal emphasized the roadmap for a stage-wise development of national systems aimed at the use of national currencies is, therefore, an important initiative that we hope would lead to enhancing intra-SCO trade.
He stressed enhancing connectivity through building rail, road, sea and air links remains critical for the realization of our shared vision.
He proposed the “Strategy for Developing Connectivity and Creating Efficient Transport Corridors.”
He said Pakistan was actively working on the Trans-Afghan Railway (TAR) project with the brothers in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
“It will provide a crucial link from Central Asia to the seaports in Pakistan, providing a natural trans-shipment link to the SCO region,” he said.
He said Pakistan was keen to develop mutually beneficial arrangements for the SCO countries in the area of trans-shipment, warehousing, multimodal transportation and so on.
He said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of BRI, already served as a pivotal platform to help promote connectivity and regional prosperity.
He announced that Pakistan would also be hosting a virtual Conference on “Transport Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” later this year.
He said Pakistan was endeavoring to build the foundation for a strong e-commerce ecosystem.
“This includes a sound regulatory environment, financial inclusion, and digitization through payment infrastructure,” he said.
He said the government’s policy was focused on empowering youth, women and SMEs to benefit from digitalization and to provide economic opportunities to over 130 million youth in Pakistan.
He said towards this objective, Pakistan would be hosting the conference on ‘Youth Empowerment through Digital Economy’ later this year.
He said ensuring food security in the face of severe climatic changes as well as volatility caused by conflicts is of critical importance for us all.
He mentioned that recent proposals to train farmers; exchange of technology and exhibitions were important initiatives to strengthen the capacity of our growers and farmers.
Reporter: Muhsinul Mulk