Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday emphasised the country’s interest in trade and engagement with India saying that Pakistan was isolated on the world stage due to past policies.
“Despite a “long history of war and conflict” and the Indian government’s actions in occupied Kashmir and its anti-Muslim agenda, it was not in Pakistan’s interest to remain disengaged,” Bilawal said while speaking at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, a government-funded think tank, the Dawn reported.
Referring to the former government of Pakistan-Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI), he said that the coalition government had inherited an “internationally isolated and internationally disengaged” country, adding “But it was time for pivoting to economic diplomacy and focusing on engagement.”
“Do we achieve our objectives, whatever they may be; be it Kashmir, be it the rising Islamophobia, be it the Hindutva sort of supremacist nature of the government in India. Does it serve our objective?” Bilawal said.
He highlighted the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and said, “these issues remained the “cornerstone” of Pakistan’s narrative and the government was taking them up “in the most serious and most aggressive manner,” the Dawn reported.
“We have practically cut off all engagement” with India, the Dawn quoted Bilawal as saying. Bilawal further said that if Pakistan had achieved economic engagement with India in the past, it would have been in a better position to influence Delhi’s policy and prevented both countries from taking extreme positions.
The relationship between the two countries worsened in 2019 after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by scrapping Article 370 and bifurcating it into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Since then diplomatic ties have been downgraded, bilateral trade suspended and there has been no structured dialogue.
Earlier, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that as part of its shift from geo-strategy to geo-economics, Pakistan is looking to forge partnerships, especially within the region, based on connectivity, which apparently includes New Delhi.
“Pakistan and India have a lot to gain from mutually beneficial trade,” he said as quoted by Dawn. “We are cognisant of the economic dividends that can be accrued from a healthy trade activity with India,” the Prime Minister said further.
It is to be noted that after coming to power in Pakistan in early April, Shehbaz Sharif has written a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing his desire for peaceful ties with India and the resolution of all the outstanding issues.
Meanwhile, Bilawal also stressed the country’s problematic diplomatic relations with the United States, which were affected after the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government (PTI) accused the United States of collaborating with the opposition parties to remove it from office, the Dawn reported.
PTI chief and former prime minister Imran Khan ran an aggressive campaign after being deposed by a no-confidence vote in parliament, calling for freedom from the “slaves of foreign powers”. This heightened anti-Americanism in the country, the dawn reported.
However, the diplomatic relations between Pakistan and United States were resumed after Bilawal Zardari met the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York on the sidelines of the food security conference.