New Foreign Minister Addresses First Press Conference
Pakistan’s new foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has urged India to begin peace talks and shun adventurism for coming together saying issues “will not be solved overnight” and “Kashmir is a reality” an issue both sides acknowledge.
According to Dawn, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while addressing his first press conference after being sworn in at the Foreign Office (FO) in Islamabad on Monday, said, “I will try to bridge the trust deficit between Pakistan and other regional countries.”
He began with addressing people of Afghanistan and their leader Ashraf Ghani and indicated his intention to visit Kabul. He said, “I want to bring a solid message to the people of Afghanistan. The two countries share a future and geography, and we have to work together and begin our long journey.”
While referring to India, Qureshi said, “My second message is for the government of India. I want to tell the India foreign minister that we are not just neighbor: we are atomic powers. We have a lot of common resources.”
While referring to recent letter received by Prime Minister Imran Khan from India’s PM Narendra Modi, in which he indicated the beginning of talks, Qureshi asserted, “India and Pakistan have to move forward keeping realities before them.”
He further said, “Us coming to the table and talking peace is our only option. We need to stop the adventurism and come together. We know the issues are tough and will not be solved overnight, but we have to engage. We cannot turn our cheek. Yes we have outstanding issues. Kashmir is a reality; it is an issue that both our nations acknowledge.”
He said, “We need a continued and uninterrupted dialogue. This is our only way forward. We may have a different approach and line of thinking, but I want to see a change in how we behave.”
Qureshi asserted, “Pakistan’s interest is at our very centre of foreign policy. Wherever we need to fix our foreign policy we will fix it. Some forces have been trying to run Pakistan into isolation and marginalisation. And why wouldn’t they do it? Your country didn’t have a foreign minister ─ who is meant to be your chief diplomat. This gives your opponents open playing fields.”
His remarks were understood to be critical of earlier government for not having a full-fledged foreign minister for a long time. Nawaz Sharif, kept the portfolio with himself having Srataj Aziz as an advisor on foreign affairs.
Comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan were suspended after Mumbai terror attack in 2008. Terror attack on Pathankot Air Force base, terrorists’ assault on security personnel in Uri in 2006 and pronouncement of death sentence by Pakistan’s military court to Kulbhushan Jadhav on spying charges hindered in resumption of talks between the two countries.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi served as Pakistan’s foreign minister from 31 March 2008 to 9 February 2011 during Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari regime. He assumed office of Vice Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in December 2011. Earlier, he held different ministerial portfolios in Punjab province during 1988 to1993.