Kartarpur important to Pak's foreign policy in 2019: FO

Kartarpur important to Pak's foreign policy in 2019: FO

PTI file photo

Pakistan said on Thursday that the inauguration of the historic Kartarpur Corridor which allows Indian pilgrims to undertake visa-free visit to one of Sikhism's holiest shrines, was an important development in the country's foreign policy in 2019.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui made the comments at the weekly press briefing while highlighting the success of the foreign policy in 2019.

"Another important development in the foreign policy domain was the inauguration of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on 9 November 2019 by Prime Minister Imran Khan," she said.

The ceremony was attended by dignitaries such as former Indian prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and over 12,000 Sikh pilgrims, she added.

In November, Pakistan and India separately inaugurated the historic corridor on their sides of the border. The corridor provides the shortest route to Indian Sikh pilgrims to the revered Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of Pakistan’s Narowal district, where Guru Nanak spent last 18 years of his life.

Responding to another question, Farooqui said that Pakistan greatly valued the SAARC process as it was a regional organization that is of benefit to all the member states.

"Unfortunately, we are faced with the situation where the process is hindered because of a certain member. However, this is something on our radar," she said, in a veiled reference to India.

In the last three years, India has been distancing itself from the SAARC, citing security challenges facing the region from terror networks based in Pakistan, which is also a member of the grouping.

The last SAARC Summit in 2014 was held in Kathmandu. The 2016 SAARC summit was to be held in Islamabad. But after the terrorist attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 that year, India expressed its inability to participate in the summit due to "prevailing circumstances".

The summit was called off after Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also declined to participate in the Islamabad meet.

SAARC summits are usually held biennially and hosted by member states in alphabetical order.

On December 8, 1985 at the first SAARC Summit in Dhaka, the leaders of the seven South Asian states - the Maldives, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - signed a charter to establish the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Afghanistan became the eight SAARC member in 2007.

When asked about Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is on a death row in Pakistan, she said that "it is a judicial process and there are important factors involved in it". She, however, refused to share any further details.

Talking about ties with China, she said all-weather, strategic, cooperative partnership with China was further enriched in 2019 as Prime Minister Khan undertook two important visits to China, in April and October. She said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project was advancing apace.

She also said that Phase II of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement became effective from January 1, 2020.

Under Phase II, Pakistan has secured enhanced and deeper concessions on products of its export interests, revision of safeguard mechanism for protection of domestic industry, inclusion of the balance of payment clause as a safety valve against balance of payment difficulties, and effective enforcement of electronic data exchange.

She observed that the positive trajectory of relations with US was further strengthened in 2019 as Pakistan's positive contribution to the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan was acknowledged internationally.

"Throughout 2019, Pakistan's foreign policy made significant strides on multiple fronts. New partnerships were forged and the historic and time-tested relationships were further fortified," she added.

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