ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has stressed the need for strengthening the country’s relations with neighbouring countries, advancement of national development goals and enhancement of Pakistan’s international stature.

After having in-depth briefing on foreign policy here at Foreign Office on Saturday, the prime minister particularly directed the foreign ministry officials to formulate strategy for comprehensive dialogue with India and Afghanistan.

He said that prosperity of “our own people” and promotion of cordial relations with neighbours were priorities of his government. “Our government wants cordial relations with all neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and India,” he said.

The Premier directed for revamping the plan of engagement with Afghanistan on the clear lines of non-interference in its internal affairs. Nawaz said Pakistan wanted restoration of peace in Afghanistan and it was not supporting any militant or political group in there.

The PM stressed the importance of a peaceful and stable neighbourhood and Pakistan’s positive contribution to the creation of such an environment. He also directed the ministry officials to come up with a renewed plan to sort out all the outstanding issues with neighbouring India through dialogue.

Sharing his vision on dealing with all these areas, he strongly emphasised the imperatives of promotion of trade and pursuit of economic diplomacy. On the occasion, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi were also in attendance.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani in his briefing highlighted the current regional and international environment in which Pakistan’s foreign policy is operating. He noted the positive international reaction to the successful democratic transition in Pakistan and the optimism generated since the installation of the new government for qualitative improvement in relations with a broad range of countries.

The more than three hours long briefing particularly focused on Pakistan’s bilateral ties with immediate neighbours as well as on other key relationships. The foreign secretary highlighted the main aspects of the major relationships and presented Foreign Office’s recommendations.

Sources informed that Premier Sharif made it loud and clear that Pakistan would adopt the policy of non-interference in Afghanistan affairs and would not support any group or party in the ongoing peace process following the withdrawal of Nato troops. During the briefing the modalities of the upcoming Sartaj Aziz’s visit to Kabul were also finalised.

Nawaz Sharif said that in the past the policy of meddling in the affairs of Afghanistan had caused enormous damage to the country and directed Sartaj Aziz that during his upcoming visit to Afghanistan he should take the Afghan leadership into confidence on this tilt in the Pakistan’s Afghan policy. The PM said Pakistan would continue to play its role in the peaceful solution to the Afghan problem but the same should be in line with the aspirations and demands of the people of neighbouring brotherly Islamic state.

Aziz visits Kabul today

Carrying the goodwill message of Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, Advisor to the PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz will pay a daylong visit to Kabul today (Sunday).

Diplomatic and security experts are terming it a significant move, as Sartaj Aziz would take the Afghan leaders’ assurance on part of Islamabad on non-interference in the internal affairs of Kabul and also assure all-out help to Kabul in its endeavour to bring normalcy in the restive country, particularly in the transitory phase following the NATO troops pullout which would start from early next year.

Sartaj Aziz would hold talks with Afghan leaders during his visit to Kabul on improving relations between the two countries and preparing agenda for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Pakistan. The pending trade agreement between the two countries would likely figure in the talks between the two sides.

Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and other senior Foreign Office officials would be accompanying Sartaj Aziz.

The delegation would also discuss matters related to Pak-Afghan relations, regional situation and proposed peace talks with the Taliban.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has extended an invitation to Hamid Karzai to visit Pakistan. During his visit‚ Sartaj Aziz will deliver a formal invitation to the Afghan president. The visit of Sartaj Aziz would be the first high-level exchange between the two countries since the assumption of new government in Pakistan.