CAMBRIDGE: Pakistan’s relationship with China is strategic, historic, trouble-free and pivotal to the country’s foreign policy, Ambassador to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi said during a talk at Harvard University here on Tuesday.
Speaking at a programme called the “Future of Diplomacy” at the Kennedy School of Government, Lodhi set out Pakistan’s regional and global agenda and emphasised that this reflected national priorities and Islamabad’s role as a “critical state” in international affairs.
The national priorities she listed included economic revival, defeating terrorism and elimination of violent extremism in and around Pakistan, preservation of the country’s strategic capability and building regional peace and stability.
The latter, she explained, required an end to the conflict in Afghanistan, and normalisation of Pakistan-India relations on a durable basis.
She also named regional economic cooperation and connectivity as another key priority. This, she said, is being pursued through various trans-regional projects, which aim to enhance prospects of growth and development.
She cited the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the most ambitious and potentially game changing example of regional economic cooperation.
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Expounding on the Pakistan-China relationship, the envoy said the strategic evolution of this relationship has given the Sino-Pak partnership added significance at a time of a fundamental change in the global balance of power brought about by China’s rise as a global economic powerhouse.
In recent years, she said, bilateral ties have broadened and diversified from the traditional focus on defence and military cooperation towards a greater economic and investment orientation.
She described CPEC as a critical link in China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, as a manifestation of the direction this key relationship is taking.
“This project will bring greater prosperity to the people of the region and beyond,” she said.
Balancing relationship with US
On how Pakistan will balance its relations with China with those with the United States, Lodhi said to those who ascribe a zero-sum nature to Pakistan’s relations with China and US, a recall of history would help to invalidate this notion.
Pakistan played a central role in one of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War, the opening up to China by former US President Richard Nixon, because it enjoyed good relations with both China and the US, she said.
Pakistan intends to play the same role in the future and maintain good relations with both even as the two engage in global competition, she said.
With India, Ambassador Lodhi said, Pakistan seeks to normalise relations by finding political solutions to outstanding disputes.
While Islamabad has repeatedly urged Delhi to resume the broad-based, comprehensive peace process India has yet to agree and has instead signaled it is only interested in talking about terrorism. This, she said, does not make the prospects of diplomatic progress too bright.
On Afghanistan, she responded to a question about President Ashraf Ghani’s latest statement, by saying that advocating intensified military action against the insurgency seems to run counter to the firm international consensus, which is that a political solution is the only viable way to bring peace to Afghanistan.
This is what Pakistan has urged and recommended for the past decade or more, she said.
She reminded the audience that for the past 14 years, a military solution to the conflict within Afghanistan has proved elusive.