ISLAMABAD: Pakistan needs a stable and consistent foreign policy to promote and protect its interests in the region. This was the consensus point at a seminar held Tuesday by Institute for Policy Reforms (IPR). The title of the seminar was “Is Pakistan Isolated: Regional Challenges and Opportunities.” The seminar generated a healthy and lively exchange of ideas among leading experts and an informed audience about Pakistan’s relations with the neighbours.
Syed Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister was the keynote speaker. Other speakers who gave their opinion on the subject included Chairman of IPR Humayun Akhtar Khan, eminent historian and author of ‘Pakistan, a Hard Country’ Anatol Lieven, and senior analyst Zahid Hussain.
Tariq Fatemi gave a comprehensive overview of Pakistan’s regional interests and policies. He emphasized that Pakistan wished to have cordial relations with all countries. Pakistan must not be held responsible for the failure of other countries, he said. Tariq Fatemi discussed the background of the current standoff with Afghanistan. He said Pakistan made every effort to maintain best of relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan has provided support to Afghanistan and will continue to do so. A stable Afghanistan was entirely in Pakistan’s interest.
In his introductory comments, Humayun Akhtar Khan said that Pakistan had invested several decades of institutional and financial resources in its relations with Afghanistan. These relations are important not just bilaterally, but to connect with Central Asia. A major advantage from CPEC comes from regional connectivity that links Pakistan with Central Asia’s major energy resources. He asked if the cross border incidents with Afghanistan was sign of a deeper problem between the two countries or a one off issue. “Today an important question is not merely about peace in Afghanistan, but peace with Afghanistan.” He also recommended that Pakistan must strengthen cooperation with Iran and minimize differences, if any, with the United States. Anatol Lieven said that breakdown of Afghan peace talks has increased US animus. During his travel to Washington DC there were questions about the possible justification for Pakistan’s position on Afghan peace talks. While hostility with US has increased, China continues to support Pakistan. However, Pakistan must not take this support as a carte blanche.