China cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy: Lodhi

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 27 April, 2016

Dr Maleeha Lodhi said during a talk at Harvard University that Pakistan's relationship with China is "strategic, historic, trouble free and pivotal to the country's foreign policy."

Speaking in a Programme run by the Kennedy School called the 'Future of Diplomacy, Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN set out the country's regional and global agenda and emphasised that this reflected national priorities and Pakistan's role as a 'critical state' in international affairs.

The national priorities she listed included economic revival, the defeat of terrorism and elimination of violent extremism in and around Pakistan, preservation of the country's strategic capability and building regional peace and stability. The latter, she explained, required an end to the conflict in Afghanistan, and normalization of Pakistan-India relations on an equitable and durable basis.

She told the audience that Pakistan's multiple foreign policy engagements today are shaped by these national priorities.

Ambassador Lodhi also named regional economic cooperation and connectivity as another key priority. This, she said, was being pursued through various trans-regional projects, which aim to enhance prospects of growth and development. She cited the China Pakistan Economic Corridor as the most ambitious and potentially game changing example of regional economic cooperation.

Expounding on the Pakistan-China relationship, Ambassador Lodhi said that the strategic evolution of this relationship has given the Pak-China partnership added significance at a time of a fundamental change in the global balance of power brought about by China's rise as a global economic powerhouse.

In recent years, she said, bilateral ties have broadened and diversified from the traditional focus on defence and military cooperation toward a greater economic and investment orientation.

She described the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a critical link in the "One belt, One road" initiative, as a manifestation of the direction this key relationship is taking. This project will bring greater prosperity to the people of the region and beyond, she added.

On how Pakistan will balance its relations with China with those with the United States, she said that to those who ascribe a zero-sum nature to Pakistan's relations with China and America, a recall of history would help to invalidate this flawed notion. Pakistan, she said, played a central role in one of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War - the opening to China by Nixon - because it enjoyed good relations with both China and the United States.

"Pakistan intends to play the same role in the future and maintain good relations with both even as the two engage in global competition".

Ambassador Lodhi said that a close and enduring relationship between Pakistan and the US was a strategic imperative for Islamabad for achieving lasting peace and stability in our region and beyond.

With India, Ambassador Lodhi said, Pakistan seeks to normalize relations by finding political solutions to outstanding disputes. While Islamabad has repeatedly urged Delhi to resume the broad based, comprehensive peace process India has yet to agree and has instead signaled it is only interested in talking about terrorism. This, she said, does not make the prospects of diplomatic progress too bright.

On Afghanistan, Ambassador Lodhi responded to a question about President Ghani's latest statement, by saying that advocating intensified military action against the insurgency seems to run counter to the firm international consensus, which is that a political solution was the only viable way to bring peace to Afghanistan.

This, she added, is what Pakistan has urged and recommended for the past decade or more. And she reminded the audience that for the past 14 years, a military solution to the conflict within Afghanistan has proved elusive.