Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s top foreign affairs advisor, on Tuesday said that Islamabad was “making successful efforts” against New Delhi’s Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership bid, ahead of the bloc important plenary in Seoul this week.
Aziz’s remarks come days after India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that New Delhi was “not opposed” to Islamabad’s entry to the 48-nation bloc.
India and Pakistan have both applied for the NSG membership and both countries are lobbying with member nations to seek support for their bids. Pakistan’s all-weather friend China has been consistenly opposing India’s bid for NSG membership.
Aziz was briefing the National Assembly to counter opposition criticism that Pakistan lacks a foreign minister and was losing out in influencing friendly countries in the face of India’s growing diplomatic outreach.
Aziz rejected the accusations and said that Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi’s recent visits to Muslim countries — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Iran — haven’t led to “deterioration” in Islamabad’s relation with those countries.
The advisor strongly denied that Modi’s visits to the Islamic countries were an example of the “failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy” and added that Islamabad is “working upon its policy of non-interference” in the affairs of other states.
“The impression was given that our (Pakistan’s) relations with Muslim countries have deteriorated after Modi paid visit to two such countries,” he said.
He highlighted Pakistan’s “historic and religious” relations with Muslim countries, saying that ties with Iran are “moving in the right direction”, and that after the lifting of sanctions against Tehran, Pakistan-Iran relations are getting strengthened.
He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), CASA-1000, TAPI and Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project are concrete achievements which will help increase connectivity with the region. He pointed out that with the SCO membership, Pakistan’s political role in the region will be enhanced.
Aziz reaffirmed that Pakistan has not been isolated in the region, but “after 9-11 Muslim countries suffered hostilities” and that Islamabad’s “successful foreign policies helped in securing Pakistan”.
The foreign affairs advisor said that compared to other countries in the region, Pakistan’s foreign ministry budget is very low. “In the last three years the budget has only increased by 14 percent.”
However, National Assembly members were unmoved by Aziz’s long speech, and many slammed him.
“At this age Sartaj Aziz should pray on a prayer mat,” opposition lawmaker Jamshed Dasti said, taking a jibe at Aziz, who is 87.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Shireen Mazari too lamented the absence of a foreign minister in the country. “As a result, there is no direction to the country’s foreign policy,” she said.