ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Friday vehemently denied that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was on the agenda with any “government, financial institution, or any international organisation”.
The statement from spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch at a weekly news briefing came against the backdrop of speculations that Pakistan was under pressure to roll back its long-range nuclear missile programme.
Speaking in the Senate on Thursday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had said that no one had the right to dictate Pakistan on its nuclear or missile programme. His statement triggered a debate about whether there was any pressure on Pakistan to compromise on its strategic assets in return for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.
Responding to a question at the briefing, the Foreign Office spokesperson said: “I would not like to comment on a debate that is taking place in the Parliament. Secondly, I have said earlier and I would like to reiterate that the issues that you have mentioned about Pakistan’s nuclear programme are not on the agenda with any government, any financial institution or any international organisation.”
“This debate is just speculative and I would not like to add to the speculation,” she added.
The government is struggling to revive the IMF programme despite implementing tough prior actions. Dar said that the deal would be sealed once the friendly countries commit to provide assistance to fill the external needs.
Senior Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Senator Raza Rabbani, earlier, sought an explanation from the finance minister whether there was any pressure on Pakistan to compromise on its strategic assets under the pretext of an IMF programme. Dar assured the agreement would be available for public scrutiny on the web once the staff-level deal is reached with the IMF.
The spokesperson confirmed that Foreign Secretary Dr Asad Majeed Khan is currently in Beijing to lead the Pakistan delegation for the Bilateral Political Consultations (BPC) with China. The Chinese side is led by Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong.
The two sides will have an in-depth exchange of views on the entire spectrum of bilateral ties and on important regional and global developments. Foreign Secretary will call on State Councillor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, meet CIDCA Chairman, Lou Zhaouhui and engage with Chinese academia and think tanks.
She rejected the impression of any hiccup between Pakistan and China over the non-payment of dues to the Chinese Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
“Pakistan and China are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. China is a consistent, generous and steadfast friend of Pakistan that has stood by Pakistan for the last several decades. China came and invested in Pakistan’s power sector under CPEC when no foreign investor was ready to invest in Pakistan. This investment resulted in the economic development of the country and helped us in overcoming shortages and breakouts. We are grateful to our Chinese friends for their consistent commitment to Pakistan, to CPEC and for investments in Pakistan,” the spokesperson said.
“The claims that you have mentioned being made in the media have taken an inter-governmental conversation completely out of context by adding sensationalist jargon to it. Let me underline that Pakistan and China consult closely on all matters and find optimal win-win outcomes and we will continue to do that. The people of Pakistan are proud of our friendship with China, which has always come to Pakistan’s assistance when most needed including in this difficult economic situation,” she insisted.
On Pakistan’s participation in the SCO meetings in India, the spokesperson said that Pakistan examines all invitations for upcoming meetings and takes decisions on a case-by-case basis and in light of Pakistan’s interests.
“For the particular meeting you are referring to, we believe that it is premature to take a decision on a conference that will take place in a few months’ time,” she replied while responding to a question regarding the invitation extended to Pakistan’s foreign and defence ministers by India for SCO meetings.