From the perspective of Pakistan’s foreign policy and promotion of external relations, the year 2021 was fruitful. Pakistan has proactively and consistently advanced diplomatic objectives on a range of diplomatic fronts, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
It has consolidated friendships and further strengthened bilateral relations with major powers and key partners across all regions. It has continued to be a leading voice at multilateral forums with strong advocacy on issues of sustainable and equitable development, climate change, debt relief, corruption & illicit financial flows, and Islamophobia. And has been pressing ahead on the clear pathway provided by the policy shift with an increased focus on geo-economics, leveraging its geopolitical significance. It has successfully and effectively put forward its perspective and narrative on major foreign policy issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and the situation in Afghanistan.
2021 has also been an exciting year of reform and evolution for Pakistan at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the strategic reform planning under Vision FO in 2020, became a reality in 2021. To this end, it has launched a robust Economic Diplomacy agenda, Public Diplomacy Initiative, engaged in large-scale digital reform, and leveraged Science Diplomacy.
In 2021, Pakistan truly cemented its role as a regional pivot with concrete and tangible actions to cement a reputation for responsibility, reliability, and friendship. It has completed 85 Bilateral Exchanges with over 50 Countries, 35 Senior Leadership visits to Pakistan, 32 Senior Leadership Visits by Pakistan, 18 Countries Visited, Over 50 High-level Multilateral Engagements, 35 International Forums, 5 Pakistan sponsored/co sponsored Resolutions were adopted by the UN. It has held 25 Public Diplomacy Engagements at the Foreign Minister level, 70-year Celebrations held with 6 Countries, 20 Economic Diplomacy Engagements at the Foreign Minister level. Also has brought 114 Missions Online, Across 3 Social Mediums.
The developments in Afghanistan – in the run-up to and post 15 August turn of events – presented a major challenge to Pakistan as the immediate neighbor that has historically suffered the most from the consequences of instability in Afghanistan.
Post 15 August, Pakistan played a pivotal role in the safe evacuation of over 80 thousand individuals across 42 nationalities, consisting of diplomats, International NGO workers, the media, and many, many others. Our officers worked day and night, to make this happen. This is what a responsible nation does. We played our part. Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged Rs5 Billion in aid to Afghanistan, the first consignments of which have already started.
Pakistan has consistently advocated that there is no military solution to the situation in Afghanistan and no alternative other than a negotiated political settlement.
With a vital stake in a peaceful Afghanistan and sensing this window of opportunity for durable stability after 40 years of conflict, Pakistan geared its diplomacy in advocating and garnering regional and international consensus on the need for constructive and sustained engagement with the new interim authorities in Afghanistan to help address the multiple challenges confronting the Afghan people, particularly the humanitarian crisis and the risk of economic collapse.
This included the establishment of the six-country format of immediate neighbors of Afghanistan on Pakistan’s initiative, our participation in the Moscow format and other meetings, and the Troika plus Meeting held in Islamabad including the interaction with the Afghan interim authorities.
17th Extraordinary Session of OIC CFM
The high point of these activities was the Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers hosted by Pakistan in Islamabad on 19 December to focus on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
Attended by over 70 delegations, including 30 at the Ministerial/Deputy Ministerial level, and representations from various regional and international organizations, and international partners, it provided a wider platform to address the humanitarian and economic challenges confronting the people of Afghanistan. The meeting led to a substantive, action-oriented outcome that included: the establishment of a Humanitarian Trust Fund under the Islamic Development Bank and the launching of a Food Security Program
Appointment of a Special Envoy of the OIC Secretary-General
Along with other important decisions, the Conference also addressed the issues of liquidity, enhanced access to banking channels, unfreezing Afghan assets, and ensuring that sanctions do not impede humanitarian assistance.
In the wake of the OIC Conference, the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2615 reaffirmed that the provision of humanitarian and other assistance to Afghanistan was not a violation of UN sanctions. It is a positive and important development.
In line with the Government’s policy to focus on geo-economics, economic diplomacy has assumed high priority in the conduct of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Throughout the year, under my Vision FO, I have personally remained engaged with our missions abroad to review their activities regarding export and investment promotion, increasing investor confidence, enhancing remittance inflows, tourism promotion, and broadening of trade ties with host countries.
In 2021 I was also pleased to come together with Foreign Minister, Minister of Trade for Hungary Péter Szijjártó to virtually inaugurate the Hungary-Pakistan Trade & Economic Window.
This was followed by Foreign Minister, Minister of Trade for Hungary Péter Szijjártó’s maiden visit to Pakistan with a high-level business delegation with a specific focus on Economic Diplomacy, for which a business networking event was curated at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under my Public Diplomacy Initiative.
This year, Digital Diplomacy was a core focus under my Vision FO, and in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of a Digital Pakistan.
As a founding member, we welcomed the Secretary-General of the Digital Cooperation Organization Deema Al Yahya to Pakistan this year, with plans for greater digital expansion and trade.
Prime Minister Imran Khan launched ‘Automation of Power of Attorney’, corresponding to a long-held demand of overseas Pakistanis. Initially launched as a pilot project in ten Missions in the United States and the United Kingdom, this facility will be extended to all Pak Missions abroad.
In 2021, Pakistan’s Diplomatic outreach achieved momentous growth as a result of our various public diplomacy initiatives.
This year we celebrated 70 historic years of friendship with Argentina, China, Germany, Spain, and Thailand, hosting high-impact Public Diplomacy events to add a new and renewed people-to-people dimension to our ties. In 2022, we will be celebrating key milestones in our friendships with many others including UAE, US, UK, and the EU.
We are optimistic that the year 2022, will be more fruitful not only for Pakistan but for the whole world in terms of peace, stability, and harmony.