Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has laid down guidelines and priorities on foreign policy with clear focus on improving Pakistan ties with its neighbours, resolution of Kashmir and other outstanding issues, economic diplomacy, serving Pakistani community abroad and energy sector.

Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told the weekly press briefing on Thursday that soon after assuming the office, the prime minister sent out a set of policy guidelines to the foreign ministry. He said that these guidelines have been sent to all heads of Pakistani missions abroad.

The PM, Aizaz said, emphasised that “unless the region is peaceful, our efforts for growth and development will not meet with success.” Nawaz stressed the importance of regional consensus for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. The policy of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation will be continued, he added.

The prime minister also expressed the desire to further strengthen relations with its “friends and brothers” in the Middle East. “Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran are brotherly countries with whom we shall continue to pursue cooperative relations,” he added.

Nawaz said Pakistan would strengthen most valuable and much appreciated strategic relationship with China, which had always been a great friend and a significant economic partner. On Pak-US ties, the PM noted that both the countries had many areas of common interest. “We will build on convergence and wherever there is divergence, we will work to minimise and remove it,” he added.

Europe despite its economic troubles, he said, would continue to remain an important player on the global scene and Pakistan’s largest trading partner. “We will continue to engage with European countries, both bilaterally with individual countries, as well as multilaterally with the European Union,” he added. Regarding relations with Russia, the prime minister said, “We shall continue to enhance ties” with it, an important partner and a regional power.

The prime minister directed the missions to aggressively pursue economic diplomacy, promotion of Pakistan’s interests in the realms of trade, foreign investment and economic cooperation. He said effective economic diplomacy would require synergistic relationship between the diplomatic missions and the relevant stakeholders in Pakistan, including ministries as well as the business community at large.

He said the economic ministries/departments, including Commerce, Finance, Economic Affairs Division and Board of Investment, must provide the requisite information and backup support needed by the missions to undertake practical steps for facilitating traders and current and prospective investors at both ends. Stressing the importance of science, technology and education, he directed the missions abroad to actively reach out to institutions and the private sector in search of technologies and know-how and develop institutional linkages between research and educational centres.

Nawaz Sharif expressed his government’s firm commitment to address the energy crisis facing the country in the shortest possible time. He encouraged the heads of mission to identify potential, bilateral and multilateral partners to help address the energy crisis and formulate tangible project proposals in the traditional and renewable energy sectors.

On terrorism, the prime minister said that the government would develop a comprehensive strategy and a national consensus in consultation with all the political parties, security forces, media and the civil society in dealing with this phenomenon. He said at the same time, it was imperative to address the external dimension of terrorism and it would require plugging the sources of external funding of various extremist groups, besides seeking cooperation of regional and global community.

The prime minister directed that one of the main tasks of embassies was to look after the increasingly large number of overseas Pakistanis, who were an asset. He also directed the embassies to provide efficient consular services and protect the interests of Pakistanis abroad. He directed the foreign missions to make concerted efforts to project the country’s positive image abroad, with its historical heritage, music, arts, culture and cuisine.

Nawaz said their government would also be guided by the wisdom of the people, the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the desire to see Pakistan acquire its rightful place in the comity of nations.

He said Pakistan’s size and innate strengths should enable it to have a key role on the global scene. “Heads of missions and embassies, that are our first line of defence and primary interface with the outside world, have important roles to achieve this objective,” he added.