Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Thursday said he believed a strong Pak-U.S. relationship could prove a force for stability and progress in South Asia and beyond.
“Pakistan today stands ready to work with the United States and all partners who share our vision of a peaceful, prosperous world where cooperation triumphs over conflict,” he said during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly summit. Stressing that peace and stability was an essential prerequisite for economic prosperity and development, he said this was why Pakistan shunned any “camp politics” and had maintained good relations with both the U.S. and China in the past and would continue to do so.
“Rather than seeing these relationships as a zero-sum game, we believe that both relationships can coexist and flourish simultaneously,” he explained, noting security challenges globally had grown increasingly complex. “We are witnessing shared threats and challenges that transcend borders such as military conflicts, terrorism, climate change, food insecurity, rising number of refugees, growing economic divide between the rich and the poor, and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, noting cooperation could lead to mutually agreed and mutually beneficial solutions.
Stressing that both Pakistan and the U.S. had prospered when they worked together, he said they shared common values and were committed to the same national and international goals. “Our joint efforts such as the Green Alliance Framework will help counter climate change, build resilient infrastructure, improve public health, and combat food insecurity,” he added.
Kakar noted the Pak-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement was revived after a gap of eight year, saying it should pave the way for enhanced investment in Pakistan. “The United States is our largest export destination. Over the past year, Pakistan’s total exports to the U.S. reached an impressive $8.4 billion. We need to work on U.S. investment in Pakistan,” he said, adding that he was striving to improve Pakistan’s business climate and attract investment in his role as caretaker prime minister. “More than 80 U.S. enterprises are already operating and thriving in Pakistan, contributing to our mutual prosperity. This constitutes a good infrastructure for investment on which we can build further investment partnership,” he said, adding that the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) sought to attract foreign direct investment in various areas by removing bureaucratic red-tape.
On climate change, the interim prime minister noted Pakistan had yet to fully recover from last year’s devastating floods. Lamenting that Pakistan was among the most vulnerable countries to climate change despite contributing less than 1% of global emissions, he said the country was striving to transition to renewables but could not shoulder the financial burden alone.
Kakar also discussed resurgence of terrorism in Pakistan, admitting it was a source of grave concern. He stressed that a stable Afghanistan was a foreign policy priority for Pakistan and the U.S., adding Islamabad welcomed direct U.S. engagement with the Afghan government. Pakistan, he said, would continue to push Kabul to guarantee women’s rights and ensure its soil was not used for terrorist attacks against other countries.
On ties between Pakistan and India, he said Islamabad wanted peace but needed reciprocal sincerity from Delhi. “The measures taken by India in 2019 in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir have pushed our region into a dangerous and dark alley,” he warned, adding that stability could not be achieved without resolving the Kashmir dispute. He also pointed to the rising wave of Hindutva-inspired extremism as a matter of deep concern for the entire global community, noting Western capitals had ignored it for “obvious economic and strategic reasons.”
To a question on general elections in Pakistan, Kakar said the interim government would facilitate the Election Commission of Pakistan in conducting free, fair and transparent elections. He said the elections had to be delayed due to the notification of a new census, adding they would likely occur at the end of January 2024.
Responding to a query on Pakistan’s ties with China, the interim prime minister said it was strategic relationship. “Pakistan and China have a lot in common in terms of the emerging threats within the region, there are commonality of certain issues, and we share common goals with which we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each other,” he said, noting Islamabad was aware some saw Pakistan as “China’s Israel.”