Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari highlights the need for economic progress and rejects Cold War-style politics in his speech delivered during his official visit to Japan.
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari emphasized that Pakistan, as a developing country facing significant economic and environmental challenges, does not have time for the resurgence of bloc politics reminiscent of the Cold War era.
During his address at an event in Tokyo on Monday, the foreign minister hinted at the blocs forming between the United States and China, expressing concerns about the ongoing tensions between the two superpowers.
As part of his four-day official visit to Japan, the foreign minister met with his Japanese counterpart and the Prime Minister, highlighting Pakistan’s focus on delivering employment opportunities and prosperity to its population of 230 million, a majority of whom are under 30 years of age.
The foreign minister stressed these points during his remarks at the Asian Development Bank Institute, acknowledging the major challenges faced by Pakistan in the areas of economy and climate. He also highlighted the need for enhanced regional connectivity to promote trade.
Pakistan-China Relations and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
Minister Bhutto-Zardari commended the Chinese investments in Pakistan’s power sector, which played a crucial role in addressing the country’s electricity shortages that had previously paralyzed its industries.
He emphasized that the opportunities arising from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, which have contributed to Pakistan’s industrial, agricultural, and energy sectors, were not limited to any single country. These projects have the potential to benefit multiple nations.
Regional Peace and Stability
While calling for greater regional connectivity to facilitate trade, the foreign minister acknowledged that Pakistan’s aspirations for deeper linkages and increased trade would remain unfulfilled until lasting peace and stability are achieved in South Asia.
He reaffirmed Pakistan’s stance that peace in South Asia can only be attained through dialogue and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions and the principles of international law, particularly in reference to the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan has consistently maintained that dialogue and peaceful negotiations are essential for resolving the Jammu and Kashmir issue. However, Minister Bhutto-Zardari expressed concern over the lack of progress in this matter.
Pakistan’s Geo-Economic Vision
Minister Bhutto-Zardari highlighted the necessity for change, stating that the status quo was no longer an option. He emphasized the importance of leveraging Pakistan’s strategic location at the crossroads of Central and South Asia to promote economic connectivity and drive growth.
The foreign minister expressed his vision of shifting focus from geopolitics to geo-economics, positioning Pakistan as a regional hub for economic activities and cooperation.
Japan’s Significance as a Development Partner
Minister Bhutto-Zardari described Japan as a key development partner and a significant source of foreign direct investment and industrial infrastructure for Pakistan. He acknowledged the shared outlook and vision between Pakistan and Japan in terms of regional development.
The foreign minister recognized Japan’s expertise in infrastructure development, highlighting the potential for collaboration between Pakistan and Japan to establish a robust and efficient infrastructure network. This partnership would enhance regional connectivity and boost bilateral as well as regional trade.
Moreover, Minister Bhutto-Zardari emphasized that Pakistan and Japan could contribute to the resolution of regional issues such as conflict resolution, poverty alleviation, climate change, and global health.
Meetings with Japanese Officials
During his visit, the foreign minister held separate meetings with his Japanese counterpart, Yoshimasa Hayashi, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The discussions focused on enhancing bilateral cooperation in various sectors, including trade, investment, human resource development, and agriculture.
After the meetings, Minister Bhutto-Zardari and his Japanese counterparts addressed a joint press conference. They discussed the possibility of collaboration on targeted programs in areas such as solarization, desalination, water purification, and housing and infrastructure rebuilding in flood-affected areas of Pakistan.
Both sides also deliberated on facilitating the movement of skilled workers by conducting skill assessment tests for the Japanese language in Pakistan. Additionally, they explored opportunities for investments and joint ventures by Japanese enterprises in Pakistan.
The foreign minister emphasized the need for continued engagement at all levels to foster positive dialogue and explore further avenues of cooperation between Pakistan and Japan.
Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari’s Presence in Japan
In response to the criticisms concerning the presence of Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, the sister of the foreign minister, during his visit to Japan, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) clarified that she bore her own expenses. The PPP stated that Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari had only attended events organized for the Pakistani community and the Friends of Pakistan business community.
Pakistan and Japan share a longstanding friendship and possess deep-rooted linkages that extend back in history. The visit by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the interactions with Japanese officials and business representatives further strengthen the bond between the two nations.