ISLAMABAD - The year 2019 was not without diplomatic achievements despite the controversy in December that saw Pakistan skipping the Kuala Lumpur Summit after initially spearheading the new alliance with Malaysia, Turkey and Iran.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s last minute decision to boycott the summit was not welcomed by the organisers and was widely criticised by the opposition parties at home.

Pakistan insisted there was no pressure to skip the summit but Islamabad did not want to create a division among the Muslim Ummah (nation). Turkey and Iran thought otherwise while Malaysia tried to understand Pakistan’s ‘reasons.’ Pakistan however, further engaged with tested friends like China and Saudi Arabia. Partnership with Russia boomed and confidence level with the United States improved.

Tension with India went through the whole year and is still threatening war with regular skirmishes along the Line of Control. Amid the tension, Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on November 9 at a ceremony that was held in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Complex, Kartarpur. The peace move was appreciated by the whole world.

Relations with friends enhanced, Ties with Russia witness boom, Confidence level with US improves

After the unilateral and illegal action by India on August 5, 2019, Prime Minister Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi as well as President Arif Alvi reached out to their counterparts across the world to inform them of Pakistan’s stance on the matter. A large number of world leaders have since publicly expressed their concerns on the issue.

Letters were addressed to the President of the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, keeping them apprised of the evolving situation in held Kashmir.

An emergency session of the contact group on Jammu and Kashmir was immediately called on Pakistan’s request in August as a result of which the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation delivered a strong statement condemning India’s atrocities. Subsequently, in September, the OIC Contact Group spearheaded by the foreign minister issued a ministerial communique on the Kashmir dispute, on the sidelines of the UNGA.

As the ties with Russia warmed, Pakistan and Russia signed a Joint Statement on “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space” in May in Bishkek. The Joint Statement was signed by the two foreign ministers and is a reflection of convergence of views between Pakistan and Russia on prevention of arms race in outer space. The two countries signed many agreements in 2019 to enhance the partnership.

In 2019, Pakistan played a key role to bring the US and the Afghan Taliban on the talks table. When the dialogue was suspended by President Donald Trump, Islamabad again convinced both the sides to resume the peace process. The confidence level with Washington also started to improve. The US resumed the military training for Pakistan in a sign of thaw in ties. President Trump had in the previous months given a cold shoulder to Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the all-weather strategic partner China twice during 2019, which played an important role in reinforcing the time-tested and deep-rooted ties. Important strides were made in the further advancement of the transformational project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

High frequency of leadership-level exchanges between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan was witnessed in year 2019. Prime Minister Imran Khan undertook at least four visits to Saudi Arabia since May 2019.

On the invitation of President Trump, Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the United States in July. This was the first summit-level engagement between Pakistan and the United States since both leaders assumed their respective offices.

Imran Khan led the Pakistan delegation during the high-level week of the UN General Assembly Session in New York in September and delivered his address focused primarily on Kashmir.

Prime Minister Khan paid an official visit to Turkey. He also visited Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic to attend the 19th Meeting of the Council of the Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

In 2019, the Prime Minister undertook visits to United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran and Bahrain. These visits have been highly successful and the dividends have been evident, both for the short and long term.

“Prime Minister’s leadership level contacts were instrumental in promoting Pakistan’s positive role and contribution to the Afghan peace and reconciliation process,” the foreign ministry said.

The Prime Minister took the initiative to help defuse tensions in the Middle East and the Gulf region and press for resolution of differences and disputes through political and diplomatic means.

Pakistan hosted the third China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in September. Under this platform, joint workshop for junior diplomats was also conducted in Islamabad along with U19 Cricket tournament in China.

Torkham crossing point was inaugurated on 24/7 basis. Pakistan also hosted the first review session of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity in June 2019.

The review of the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue between Pakistan and the UK was held in London from 15 to 19 June, 2019. The Foreign Minister led Pakistan’s delegation for the ESD.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and the Board of Investment hosted an Envoys Conference focused on Africa in November. The Conference deliberated ways and means to enhance foreign direct investment and trade particularly, as part of “Economic Diplomacy”.

The year 2019 also witnessed Foreign Minister Qureshi’s engagement with partners and interlocutors around the world.

Qureshi visited a number of countries including China (twice), Saudi Arabia (four times) Turkey, Oman, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Germany, and Sri Lanka. During his visit to Brussels in June, the Foreign Minister signed the Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan.

Qureshi visited UK in connection with the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting in July 2019. He led the Pakistan delegation at the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. Separately, he met Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

The just concluded year was a busy year in terms of hosting foreign dignitaries in Pakistan. The Foreign Minister hosted his counterparts from China, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Luxembourg, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the Special Representative of US Secretary of State for Afghanistan Reconciliation.

At the highest level, Muhammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Muhamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, President of Afghanistan Asharaf Ghani, President of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espionosa, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands visited Pakistan in 2019.

The United Nations declared Islamabad as a family station which was seen as a big achievement. The visa regime was liberalised to promote trade and tourism, economic diplomacy remained a main pillar of foreign policy to attract foreign direct investment and promote trade, Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council was established during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince.

Saudi Arabia committed $20 billion investment. Agreement was signed to transform the existing relations with UAE into “Long Term Strategic Economic Partnership” and commitments of $10 billion investment from UAE.

Removal of visa restrictions by Bahrain, initiation of construction work of King Hamad Nursing University in Islamabad by the Government of Bahrain, removal of ban on export of rice to Qatar, increase in manpower export to Qatar by 100,000 and opening of Qatar Visa Centres, Islamabad and Karachi, removal of visa restrictions on Pakistani Zaireen to attend Arbaeen in Iraq, signing of agreements with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain were also counted as the diplomatic achievements by the foreign ministry.

Bilateral Political Consultations were held with Finland, Norway, Latvia, Russia, Bulgaria, Belarus, Malta, The Netherlands and Poland during the year.