Pakistan strongly condemns the provocative statement made by Indian Defence Minister on 26 July 2023 in Ladakh, boasting India’s readiness to cross the Line of Control.

Assalam-o-Alaikum! Good morning

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had an active agenda over the last several days. He held important telephone conversations with a number of his counterparts and leaders of international organizations and institutions. These include: Foreign Minister of Iran, Dr. Hossien Amir Abdollahian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Türkiye, Hakan Fidan, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary General, Hissein Brahmin Taha, and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.

In these conversations, bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest were discussed. The main purpose of these calls was to discuss two key issues of concern to Pakistan: the alarming rise of Islamophobia and religious hatred directed against Muslims, and discussions pertaining to the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI).

You would recall the Black Sea Grain Initiative was discussed between the Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and Ukraine last week. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had expressed a willingness to engage with relevant parties to promote dialogue and consultation for the revival of the Initiative.

Foreign Minister discussed BSGI in the telephone conversations with the Foreign Minister of Turkiye and Russia, the US Secretary of State and the EU High Representative, and the UN Secretary General. He shared with them Pakistan’s concerns pertaining to food security and inflation resulting from BSGI’s expiry. He underscored the need for concerted efforts to revive the deal, taking into account the concerns of the relevant parties on the basis of mutual accommodation. Foreign Minister also shared Pakistan’s readiness to contribute to collective efforts in that regard.

Pakistan strongly condemns the desecration of the Holy Quran and dishonoring of the Pakistani flag in front of the Embassy of Pakistan in Copenhagen, Denmark. A strong protest has been lodged with the Government of Denmark. We expect the Danish authorities to take all measures necessary to stop such acts of hatred and incitement.

The intent of such evil acts is to insult two billion Muslims around the world and create friction amongst communities, cultures, and countries. These acts, by any definition, do not constitute freedom of expression. Nor can the permission to carry out provocative acts of religious hatred be justified under the pretext of freedom of expression, opinion and protest. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said, “speech and inflammatory acts against Muslims are offensive, irresponsible and wrong”.

Pakistan has always maintained that freedom of expression comes with responsibilities. It is the responsibility of national governments, regional organizations and the international community at large to call out, condemn and proactively prevent the vile acts of Islamophobia and religious hatred. As urged by the UN Human Rights Council, the relevant countries must address, prevent and prosecute such acts of religious hatred. The international community must raise its collective voice against Islamophobia and work together to promote inter-faith harmony and peaceful co-existence.

Pakistan, for its part, will continue to raise the question of Islamophobia at the international level. This issue was a key point of telephone conversations of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari with his counterparts from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkiye and with Secretary General of OIC and the UN Secretary General. Issues pertaining to these recurrent acts of Islamophobia are being discussed at the OIC Headquarters in Jeddah and the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Last week Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also signed the ‘‘Host Country Agreement’’ between Pakistan and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which was co-signed by President of IFAD Alvaro Lario. As a result of the Agreement, IFAD will set up its Country Office in Islamabad. The Agreement formalizes the already existing substantial cooperation with IFAD whose current portfolio across Pakistan totals US$ 673 million, which is the second highest IFAD undertaking in the world.

The UN Special Coordinator on Afghanistan, Feridun Sinirlioğlu visited Pakistan 24-25 July 2023. In Islamabad, he held meetings with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Secretary, Dr. Asad Majeed Khan, Special Representative on Afghanistan, Ambassador Asif Durrani, and Secretary, States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Division, Mr. Pervaiz Ahmed Junejo. The discussions focused on the importance of a coherent international strategy to engage with the Afghan Interim Government.

Pakistan strongly condemns the provocative statement made by Indian Defence Minister on 26 July 2023 in Ladakh, boasting India’s readiness to cross the Line of Control. These unwarranted and totally unacceptable remarks reflect India’s hostility against its neighbours, Pakistan in particular.

Pakistan is fully capable of defending itself against any aggression as demonstrated in its forceful response to India’s misadventure in February 2019.

This is not the first time that India’s political leaders and senior military officers have made such highly irresponsible and delusional remarks about Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. They routinely engage in jingoistic rhetoric for political ends by stoking hyper-nationalism and anti-Pakistan sentiment. This practice of dragging Pakistan into Indian political discourse must end.

These highly irresponsible statements also constitute a threat to regional peace and security and aim to destabilize the strategic environment in South Asia. While fully prepared to respond to India’s provocations and irresponsible behaviour, Pakistan will continue to act responsibly and contribute to all efforts for promoting peace, security and stability in the region.

Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally-recognized disputed territory. India’s claims on Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are founded in fantasy. Neither history and international law, nor morality and the situation on ground can validate India’s illusions. It should, therefore, direct its attention to full implementation of the relevant UNSC resolutions which stipulate that the final disposition of the territory will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.

Pakistan will continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters for the just and peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.

I have an update on the Greek Boat Tragedy.

The mortal remains of 15 Pakistanis who perished in the disaster have arrived in Pakistan and handed over to their families in the districts of Gujarat, Gujranwala, Mandi Bahauddin, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, Vehari and Mirpur (AJK). Our Mission in Greece facilitated the process of retrieval and transportation of the dead bodies. The Greek authorities have also informed that they have completed the process of DNA matching of the retrieved dead bodies. No additional Pakistani national has been identified among the deceased.

Thankyou!

Thursday, 27 July 2023

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga