Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Tuesday said that as the US mission in Afghanistan was over, Pakistan wanted to take its bilateral ties beyond counterterrorism and Afghanistan, while keeping them both among the priorities.
“Now that the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan is over, we want to take our relationship beyond counterterrorism and Afghanistan—which, of course, would remain priorities… In short, we have all the ingredients in place to build a more substantive and broad-based relationship that is anchored in trade, investment, and people-to-people linkages,” the foreign minister said in a conversation at Council on Foreign Relations.
The foreign minister, who is currently in New York to attend the UN General Assembly session, said for Pakistan, the US remained an important partner.
The event was attended by a large number of analysts and members from the think tank community as well as media persons.
It was the first physical session at the CFR after a hiatus of 18 months and Foreign Minister Qureshi was the first guest invited to the first such event held both physically and virtually.
President CFR Ambassador Richard Haass welcomed the Foreign Minister to the Council, which is one of the United States’ leading thinks and the publisher of the Foreign Affairs journal.
The US is Pakistan’s largest export market
Qureshi said the US was still Pakistan’s largest export market and a major source of foreign remittances.
He said the talented young Pakistanis continue to gravitate towards American college campuses and Silicon Valley incubators. Finally, we have a large and politically engaged Pakistani American community that is a bridge between our two countries, he added.
He said Pak-US engagement had often been narrowly framed, dictated either by short-term security interests or the imperative to deal with a common challenge.
“We want to break out of this pattern,” he remarked.
Qureshi said after September 11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan and the US came together to decimate Al Qaeda’s core leadership and architecture. The bilateral cooperation produced results, leading President Biden to conclude earlier this year that the United States had achieved its core objective in Afghanistan.
The foreign minister told the gathering that as Pakistan shifted its focus towards “geo-economics,” the country wanted to leverage its connectivity infrastructure—including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—to enhance regional trade and economic integration. Pakistan saw the United States as an important partner in this regard, Qureshi added.
The foreign minister said Pakistan being an over 220 million people market, Pakistan’s young but exciting start-up tech culture showcased its untapped investment potential. With the government’s climate-friendly energy policies, there are now tremendous opportunities for U.S. companies that specialize in renewable and clean energy.
Ultimately, an economically strong Pakistan can be an anchor of stability in a region that has suffered through 40 years of war in Afghanistan, the minister remarked.
The foreign minister said Pakistan could work with the US through the Development Finance Corporation to generate economic activity along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to help Afghan people rebuild their war-ravaged country.
PM Khan willing to have peaceful ties with India for Kashmir
Referring to the regional situation, he told the gathering that after assuming the office, Prime Minister Imran Khan offered that he would take “two steps” towards peace if India took one.
“Our message was simple: Pakistan and India should be fighting poverty instead of each other. Unfortunately, India not only spurned our overtures for peace but took actions in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir that has pushed South Asia into a blind alley,” he remarked.
Today I spoke at @CFR_org outlining 🇵🇰 vision for future of a Pakistan-U.S. relationship that is broad-based & multidimensional, anchored in economic exchange and people to people contacts. Highlighted Pakistan’s efforts for regional stability and our perspective on #Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/L6hRI5zfxk
— Shah Mahmood Qureshi (@SMQureshiPTI) September 21, 2021