ISLAMABAD: Through a consistent high-level engagement with the international community, the incumbent government pursued a prudent foreign policy to revive friendly foreign relations while effectively contesting Pakistan’s case on multiple fronts – from Kashmir and climate change to the Muslim world issues.
The coalition government inherited a damaged foreign policy that isolated Pakistan at the international level; however Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s leadership took up the gigantic task of improving the strained ties with otherwise closely allied countries.
Soon after the coalition parties formed their government, the country was hit by the worst floods affecting 33 million people and inflicting around $30 billion loss to the national economy and infrastructure.
The current government sensitized the international community about the damages by climate change-induced floods despite Pakistan’s contribution of less than 1% to carbon emissions.
The latest credit to the present government’s prudent foreign policy was the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund agreed upon at the COP27 summit to support the developing world for the losses caused by climate change-induced calamities.
Earlier, the removal of Pakistan from the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force also manifested the government’s forceful advocacy of Pakistan’s measures to combat terror financing and the simultaneous successful implementation of two action plans.
Prime Minister Shehbaz and Foreign Minister Bilawal repeatedly interacted with the leadership from friendly countries including the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others to strengthen the relations by enhancing the scope of bilateral and regional cooperation.
In April, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Saudi Arabia and met Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to further strengthen bilateral economic, investment, and trade ties.
Besides participation in the Open Debate of the UN Security Council on “Conflict and Food Security”, and the 2nd Global Covid-19 Summit by Bilawal Bhutto in May, State Minister Hina Rabbani Khar also attended High-Level International Donors Conference for Ukraine.
Bilawal undertook his first official visit to China to discuss advancing the CPEC construction and attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in May.
In the prime minister’s visit to Turkey on 31 May-2 June 2022, both countries agreed to further improve their relations in the fields of tourism, education, logistics, civil aviation, and communication.
The visit of the German Foreign Minister to Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto’s visit to Mashhad, the visit of the Secretary-General, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to Pakistan, and the foreign minister’s participation in the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting in Tashkent are highlights of Pakistan’s diplomatic engagements in June and July this year.
In August, the prime minister visited Qatar while the foreign minister undertook a four-state visit to Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
Following the devastating floods, Pakistan and the United Nations jointly launched the “flash appeal” seeking the international community’s help for rescue and relief operations in the affected areas.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid a Solidarity Visit to Pakistan in September and was briefed on the flood situation by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The same month, Foreign Minister Bilawal chaired a High-Level event on Loss & Damage organized by Pakistan on the sidelines of the 77th Session of UNGA and told the international community that the floods impacted one in seven Pakistanis and caused damages equivalent to 10% of Pakistan’s GDP.
On the UNGA sidelines, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met French President Emmanuel Macron wherein France agreed to host an international conference before the end of the year aiming at contributing to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood-affected areas.
In October, Pakistan and the United Nations launched the Revised Flash Appeal of US $ 816 million to respond to the needs of people affected by unprecedented climate-induced floods
The UNGA unanimously adopted a resolution to express solidarity and support to the government and people of Pakistan in the wake of the devastating floods.
During his visit to Kazakhstan for the CICA summit, Prime Minister Shehbaz also held bilateral meetings with the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, besides interaction with other leaders.
While advocating for a peaceful relationship with other countries, the incumbent government strongly supported the Kashmiris and linked any betterment of Pak-India ties with the reversal of Indian unilateral actions of August 5, 2019.
During his media interaction during a recent US visit, the foreign minister censured Narendra Modi calling him the “Butcher of Gujarat” and that the BJP drew inspiration from Hitler.
During the interaction with leaders from different countries, Pakistan’s leadership repeatedly called for constructive engagement with the interim Afghan government for the betterment of the people of the war-torn countries.
At the same time, Pakistan also urged the Afghan side to abide by its commitment to the international community vis-à-vis women’s rights and girls’ education.
During his visit to Pakistan from December 10-12, the OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha also visited Azad Jammu and Kashmir where he reiterated OIC’s support to the oppressed people of the IIOJK.
On November 19, Hina Rabbani Khar paid a day-long visit to Kabul and held meetings with the leadership of the interim government and discussed the cooperation in education, health, agriculture, trade and investment, regional connectivity, people-to-people contacts, and socioeconomic projects.