ISLAMABAD: Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will leave for the United States on May 16 to attend the Global Food Security meeting to be held in New York on May 18, official sources told The News. He will be accompanied by high-level officials from the Foreign Office.
Bilawal was extended an invitation by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he telephoned to congratulate Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on taking office last Friday. The foreign minister also participated Thursday night, virtually, in the Second Global Covid Summit after he accepted an invitation from Secretary Blinken.
Bilawal, after the telephone call, had himself disclosed the news on Twitter in which he said, “Received call from Secretary Blinken and am grateful for warm felicitations on my assumption of office. We exchanged views on strengthening mutually beneficial broad-based relationship, promotion of peace, development and security while agreeing engagement with mutual respect which is the way forward."
“The foreign minister received the invitation to visit the US last Friday. The Foreign Office is still in the process of finalising the details. Senior officials will be accompanying the minister”, sources told The News.
Though efforts are also being made to arrange for a bilateral meeting with Secretary Blinken, officials say they cannot confirm a meeting at this point. The Foreign Office says that efforts are being made for bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit but did not say which countries’ representatives would be meeting the foreign minister.
The Foreign Office, meanwhile, is also finalising a ‘high-level’ visit to Davos-Klosters, in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum from May 22 to May 26. “Details are still being finalised but it is confirmed that it will be a high-level delegation to Davos. Whether it is Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif or Foreign Minister Bilawal, we cannot confirm as yet," say officials. Other sources indicated that most probably the prime minister would attend. The Foreign Office when approached said that they will only put out an official statement after all details are finalised and were reluctant to give more information.
“You would be aware that an invitation has been extended and Pakistan’s participation has been confirmed for this ministerial meeting on food security that is going to be held in New York on May 18, 2022. We will share further details as soon as these are firmed up. We can also look forward to other bilateral engagements on the sidelines during this visit,” FO spokesperson told the media.
On Thursday US Charge d’ Affaires, Angela Aggeler called on Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and, according to the Foreign Office, the minister in his remarks to the US diplomats said that Pakistan wants to enhance its relations with the United States. “The foreign minister invited US companies to come and invest in Pakistan. He also thanked the US for the 64 million Covid vaccines sent to Pakistan. Angela Aggeler thanked the foreign minister and hoped for stronger bilateral relations between the two sides," said a statement from the Foreign Office.
However, there was no mention in the statement about the visit to the US by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari or whether a bilateral meeting with the Secretary of State has been finalised.
Earlier, the Inter Services Intelligence Director General (ISI), Lt General Nadeem Anjum, visited Washington this week and held meetings with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and CIA Director William J Burns but there was no statement either from Rawalpindi or Washington.
Reports indicated that the DG ISI could have tried to ensure that there was a bilateral meeting between the foreign minister and his US counterpart.
Earlier, during the weekly media briefing, the spokesperson was asked about the allegation by Imran Khan in which he blamed the United States for the regime change in Pakistan. “On the question regarding allegations, regime change and other things, I think if you would have followed our previous press briefing, I had comprehensively commented on these issues, and from the Foreign Office perspective, there is not much for me to add at this point of time. With the US, there is shared desire for further strengthening and enhancing of mutually beneficial bilateral relations as manifested by recent and ongoing contacts," responded the spokesperson.
The spokesperson confirmed that a Pakistani delegation would be visiting India for the Group of Legal Experts of SCO-RATS scheduled to be held in New Delhi from 15-20 May 2022. “It is a regular expert level meeting which will be joined by all SCO member countries and there is nothing unusual about it. These meetings are periodically held in Tashkent but since India is current chair of SCO-RATS, the meeting is being hosted by India in New Delhi. A working-level Pakistan delegation, led by MOFA, would participate in the meeting with participation from other officials”, he said.
To a question on relations and talks with India, the spokesperson said, “In diplomacy you never shut the doors. Let me say very clearly and I think it is very obvious from the statements of the leadership of the previous government and the current government, and I think you will see a lot of consistency in these statements, and that is because this is an issue on which there is national consensus. So yes, we have been saying we want friendly relations with all neighbours including India but the situation that arose in the wake of India’s illegal and unilateral actions in IIOJ&K on 5th August 2019 and subsequent steps they took, the environment for a fruitful, constructive dialogue is not there”. He added that Pakistan has been saying very consistently that the onus is on India to create an environment that is conducive for a result-oriented dialogue, and yes Jammu and Kashmir as the core dispute has to be at the forefront of any such dialogue.
To a query on the recent restrictions on Afghan girls and women inside Afghanistan, the spokesperson responded, “Thank you for the question. What I can say is that our own experience shows that women have an important role in national development and I think as a progressive Islamic country, it has always been our endeavour to harness and maximize the full potential of women and girls in all walks of lives.
This is also as you would know in keeping with the Islamic teachings and traditions, which provide a central role to women in the society. We hope the general expectations of the international community in this regard will be duly considered by the Afghan authorities in their own interest”.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari held a telephonic conversation with OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha to apprise him of the latest situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) in the wake of so-called “Delimitation Commission” in the occupied territory. According to a press release, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, while dismissing the report as another outrageous attempt by India at political gerrymandering, said that by redrawing electoral boundaries blatantly favouring the Hindu-dominated constituencies, the so-called “Delimitation Commission” has validated the worst fears of the Kashmiri people that the BJP government sought to disempower and disenfranchise them by altering the demographic structure of the IIOJ&K with a view to converting the Muslim majority into a minority.
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