Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project & other agreements to be pursued, FO

Pakistan’s foreign policy will not change with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) coming into power and all agreements foreign-office0signed by the former government, including Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, will be pursued, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani declared on Friday.

Addressing a weekly press briefing along with Pakistan ambassador to China Khalid Masood, Jilani said that Pakistan was facing worst energy shortage and it will pursue all available options, including the Iran gas pipeline project, to meet the energy requirements.

“Foreign policy of any government or country is based on national consensus and interests and it did not change with the change of the government…I don’t think there will be any major shift in foreign policy with the change of government,” he remarked in response to a question whether the reported $15 billion bailout package by Saudi government to Pakistan was aimed at shelving the gas pipe line project.

When this correspondent sought his comments on the $15 billion package for dealing with the energy crisis, the foreign secretary, however, did not confirm any such package.

Responding to a question about US President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, he referred to the policy statement given by the Foreign Office in which the government of Pakistan took note of the counterterrorism strategy outlined by president Obama in his speech on Thursday.

“Pakistan appreciates President Obama’s acknowledgement that “force alone cannot make us safer.” This also has been Pakistan’s longstanding stance that a comprehensive strategy was acquired to address the root causes that foster terrorism and extremism”, the statement released by the Foreign Office said. As a frontline state in the fight against terrorism, the statement said that Pakistani troops had borne the brunt and given the ultimate sacrifice for it. “We appreciate President Obama’s acknowledgement ad recognition of the sacrifices made by Pakistan, particularly by our law enforcement authorities,” it said, adding: “We welcome the resolve expressed by President Obama to continue efforts to rebuild the important bilateral relationship with Pakistan, which we believe should be based on the mutual respect and benefit.”

On drone strikes, the statement said that the government of Pakistan had consistently maintained that the drone strikes were counter-productive, entailed loss of innocent civilian lives, had human rights and humanitarian implications and violated the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.

About the recent visit of Chinese premier, he said that visit was aimed at conveying strong message of solidarity with Pakistan and it would further strengthen economic and strategic relations between the two countries.

He termed premier Li’s visit to Pakistan successful, saying that it provided an opportunity to discuss entire gamut of bilateral cooperation‚ and regional and international issues.

He said that the visit was also significant because it demonstrated the continuity of the strategic partnership between the two countries, adding it would help enhance economic‚ strategic‚ defence ties and people to people contacts.

During the visit, he said that agreements worth millions of dollars were signed to enhance economic cooperation. He said at present, trade with China stood at $12.5 billion and it would be expanded to $15 billion by 2015.

He said that no new agreement on civilian nuclear technology had been signed and the civilian nuclear cooperation with China was an “ongoing process and it is within the international safeguards”.

On energy cooperation between China and Pakistan‚ he said that Chinese companies are working on several hydle‚ thermal and wind power projects in Pakistan. He said that during premier Li recent visit, a Joint Energy Working Group was also constituted, which will shortly meet to take stock of the pressing energy requirements of Pakistan and identify how this cooperation “can move forward in future”.

The Foreign Secretary said that Pakistan formally handed over Gwadar to China during the visit of Chinese Premier to Pakistan.

About China’s role in improving situation in Afghanistan, he said that China was a major partner in development in Afghanistan and also engaged with Pakistan and Afghan leadership to improve situation. He said that there was a complete convergence between Pakistan and China on peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.

About cooperation on counter-terrorism and Chinese concerns about the terrorists’ threats, he said Pakistan has repeatedly conveyed to the Chinese government that the country considers any threat to china as a threat to Pakistan and there is some excellent cooperation going on between security agencies of the two countries in this regard.

About Indian government concerns regarding the presence of Chinese troops in Azad Kashmir, the foreign secretary categorically rejected the authenticity of such assertions.

When his comments were sought on India-China relations‚ he said that Pakistan had its own relations with China and China is developing its own relations with India. He expressed the hope that China-India relations would also help contribute to peace and stability in the region.

About Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to India, Jilani said that Afghanistan being a sovereign state had the right to develop its relations with any country, but keeping in view the overall peace and security of the region.

Earlier, the foreign secretary said that as announced by the caretaker prime minister to release Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture, 55 Indian prisoners would be handed over to Indian authorities at Wagha border on Saturday (today).

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