New York, 31 March, 2017
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi told a large gathering of international students in New York that China’s visionary project, “one belt, one road”, of which, CPEC is a part, would bring economic prosperity through regional connectivity and strengthen the region’s stability and security.
Speaking at a special event organized by International House in Manhattan, “Dinner and Conversation with Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi”, she said that China’s Belt and Road initiative is “win-win” for every participating country and their people.
Moderated by award winning journalist, Azmat Khan, an hour long conversation with Ambassador Lodhi covered a wide range of subjects including Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities, Pakistan’s contributions and role at the UN and her career journey. Initial discussion was followed by a lively question-answer session.
Talking about relations with India, Ambassador Lodhi said that Pakistan’s aim is to build a peaceful neighborhood and in that context it seeks cooperation with all countries in the region. By suspending the process of dialogue between the two countries India has brought the normalization of bilateral relations to a halt.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, she said, is committed to improve relations with India. While Pakistan has ‘never shut the door’ on dialogue it takes two to tango and India has yet to agree to resume the peace process.
Responding to a question about India’s policy of diplomatically isolating Pakistan, Ambassador Lodhi said this policy has failed.
Trying to isolate Pakistan internationally is a ‘fool’s errand’ she said. “Any country that seeks to isolate Pakistan, will end up isolating itself”, she added.
She told the audience about the recent successful holding of the Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization in Islamabad as further testimony to Pakistan’s position and respect in the international community.
Pakistan, Ambassador Lodhi said, commanded respect at the United Nations for a number of reasons. For decades Pakistan has always been among the world’s top troop-contributing countries to UN Peacekeeping operations. In the past 70 years Pakistan has been elected seven times to the UN Security Council. This was acknowledgement of Pakistan’s vital contribution to international peace and security.
Answering a question about the future of democracy in Pakistan, Ambassador Lodhi said there was a firm political consensus in the country that Pakistan’s future lay in democracy. The military, she added, was very much part of this consensus.
She told the audience that other than the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan had the most to gain from peace in Afghanistan as it has suffered grievously from the long drawn war in its neighbourhood.
The only option in Afghanistan was a negotiated peace.
She also drew a contrast in the behavior of certain Western countries and their reluctance to even accept a few hundred refugees while Pakistan has hosted millions of refugees for the past four decades. We opened our homes and our hearts to our Afghan brothers and sisters and have since provided them refuge despite Pakistan’s limited resources. She hoped these refugees would return to their homeland once peace and stability was restored in Afghanistan.
Earlier Ambassador Lodhi mingled with the students and answered questions from the large contingent of students from South Asia.