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Sunday June 23, 2024

‘Sorting out conflicts with neighbours in our best interest’

By Jamila Achakzai
October 06, 2023

Islamabad:Information minister Murtaza Solangi on Thursday said Pakistan was keen to have good relations with its all neighbours, including India, with a special focus on economy and trade.

"We cannot change our geography and our neighbours, so resolving conflicts [with neighbours] will be in our best interest," the minister told the opening ceremony for the two-day International Conference on “Navigating Peace & Security in the Region & Beyond: Pakistan’s Role” here. The Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) is holding the event in collaboration with the United States Institute for Peace "to undertake a strategic scan of the developments at the international level and in the adjoining regions of Pakistan."

The minister told participants that Pakistan had good relations with China, Iran, and the Middle East but was shifting the focus of those ties towards the improvement of its economy. He said as a commitment to national development and people's welfare, the government was striving to strengthen the economy, boost trade, and encourage investment.

"Our focus is on our economy and our people," he said. Mr Solangi said despite having issues with New Delhi and Kabul, Islamabad wanted good relations with neighbours. He said Pakistan intended to move forward by developing itself as a progressive and democratic nation that desired peace within its frontiers and across the world. "We want better relations with all nations," he said. The minister said the countries and political leadership did make mistakes in the past and Pakistan, too, had its share of mistakes but "now, we want to move on."

On the occasion, Pakistan's former ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmed Khan said regional stability was "deeply" linked with the situation in Afghanistan. He insisted that Afghanistan hadn't resolved its internal issues in the last 50 years and faced international sanctions and isolation affecting its people.

Mr Khan said terrorist groups operating in Pakistan found safe havens in Afghanistan causing a trust deficit between the two nations. He said Pakistan had decided to repatriate millions of undocumented Afghan refugees but if that initiative failed to yield results, what the consequences would be. "These issues need our attention. It's time to hold a comprehensive strategic dialogue with Afghanistan. The international community should show flexibility in economic sanctions for the sake of Afghanistan's development," he said.

ISSI Director General Sohail Mahmood told participants that today’s world situation continued to be marked by extreme fluidity and even volatility in many places. He said major power competition, war, active and simmering military conflicts, trans-national terrorism, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn, unresolved disputes, the existential threat of climate change, and a looming population explosion are but a few illustrations of what countries across the globe faced.

Mr Mahmood said a visibly evolving global order, with its attendant consequences, was throwing up new challenges and making the quest for stability a strategic imperative. He said as Pakistan tackled the complex geo-strategic landscape, and accentuated its own pivot to geo-economics, it had a range of opportunities in the political, diplomatic and economic domains to be seized and actualised with active and innovative external engagement.

The DG said the conference would delve deeper into the various facets of changing global dynamics and the role Pakistan could play in navigating peace and security in the region and beyond besides exploring opportunities for the country and the United States to find new vistas for cooperation as well as collaboration on regional and international issues of mutual interest. The event features various working sessions with a focus on Afghanistan, the Middle East, Pakistan-US relations, innovative approaches to non-traditional security challenges, global perspectives on regional peace and security, and cooperation on counter-terrorism.