ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and regional countries are facing challenges and security threats, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said yesterday.

Speaking here at the two-day Envoys’ Conference titled ‘Engage Africa,’ the FM said the world has to work together to ensure peace and security.

Pakistan, he said, was willing to promote defence and trade relations with African countries, adding, “We jointly want to enhance security situation in the region.”

The FM said Pakistan Army soldiers had rendered services in many African countries for maintaining peace under the UN peacekeeping missions. “We have initiated economic diplomacy under which we are committed to enhance exports and strengthen economy by undertaking efforts in various economic sectors,” he added.

Qureshi said Pakistan enjoyed tremendous political and diplomatic ties with the African countries. He expressed the hope that this conference will further strengthen mutual relations and economic cooperation of Pakistan with the African countries.

Qureshi said the idea of convening this conference was to deepen connect with Africa and add economic thrust to diplomatic relations. Terming Africa a continent of future, he said the era of geo-strategic connectivity demanded of Pakistan to be part of it and address the growing traditional and non- traditional threats in domain of economy and security.

Says Islamabad willing to enhance defence ties with African countries

He said as part of UN peacekeeping operations, Pakistan made significant contribution to peace, security and development of Africa over the past several decades. He said Pakistan enjoyed cordial relations with African countries and was an ardent supporter of their struggle against colonialism. He mentioned Pakistan had assisted Africa in capacity-building in education with over 700 diplomats from 52 countries also undergone training at Foreign Service Academy.

He stressed increasing frequency of business interactions infrequent, high-level contacts and close people-to-people relations. He expressed confidence that the conference would pave way for extensive economic diplomacy beyond its traditional meaning with Pakistan’s particular focus on exports and tourism.

Qureshi said the government wanted to create an effective partnership with African countries in areas of economy and food security. Only through constructive engagement “Pakistan can achieve the goal of economic integration for win-win solutions,” he said.

Earlier, President Arif Alvi addressed the conference. He said Pakistan and the African countries besides cooperation in trade and security should also collaborate in addressing their common challenges of poverty and illiteracy.

Alvi stressed governments needed to adopt a people-centric approach in security-related strategy as peace had a specific link with poverty elimination.

Alvi said people in misery looked for opportunities and crossed borders to be safe, therefore the world had a responsibility to give both peace and economic prosperity a chance.

He said despite continuing exploitation even after end of colonialism, it was important at global level to encourage trade partnerships for the mutual benefit of countries.

Alvi said Pakistan had a brilliant history of relationship with Africa in view of its participation in the peacekeeping efforts siding with the United Nations in conflict-hit areas, however stressed setting targets keeping in view future scenario for better integration.

The President said Africa presented a tremendous opportunity for Pakistani goods and services for being the second largest continent with 20 percent of world’s landmass and 54 sovereign states, and 1.2 billion people with largest youth population on the globe.

He said with a collective GDP of over $2.3 trillion and an import market of around $500 billion, most countries in Africa witnessed stable growth. Alvi said Pakistan’s economy was gaining strength following improvement in security situation and consumers were getting prosperous. “This is like emergence of a beautiful country out of the decades-long cloud cover of terrorism,” he added.

The president mentioned that Prime Minister Imran Khan built a strong narrative at the forum of UN General Assembly on global economic priorities, money laundering, Kashmir dispute and Islamophobia.

He termed climate change another problem affecting the countries worldwide and stressed holding a SAARC conference on environment to avert climatic threats in the region. Alvi said Pakistan had learned a lesson after suffering from terrorism for 40 years to not to polarise societies from within, and mentioned that currently, a country at the eastern border was now falling to the similar trap.

Alvi said the government started considering reactivation of ties with African countries since it assumed office last year, adding the conference was a good step to engage diplomats through Foreign Ministry to devise a future plan of cooperation.

The President urged upon Pakistan’s envoys in Africa to focus on the subjects of trade and tourism with their respective countries of postings and also revive the culture of courtesy for listening to the problems of own expatriates. He also proposed increasing the number of existing 15 resident missions in Africa to further build cooperation and narrative.