Meeting

A Conversation With Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar of Pakistan

Thursday, September 21, 2023
Pakistan's Press Information Department
Speaker

Prime Minister, Pakistan

Presider

Principal, Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC; Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations

Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar discusses the relationship and partnership between Pakistan and the United States and efforts to establish peace, security, and prosperity in the region.

HADLEY: Good morning. Welcome.

Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar took the oath of office as caretaker prime minister of Pakistan on August 14, 2023, to lead his country through the upcoming election cycle. At the time, he was serving in parliament as an independent senator from Balochistan province. He’s one of the founding members of the Balochistan Awami Party. He was appointed as the central spokesman for the party in 2018. While serving as senator, he was the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development and a variety of other responsibilities.

Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. Thank you for being with us, and we look forward to your remarks.

KAKAR: Thank you so much.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to speak today at the Council on Foreign Relations. I speak to you at a pivotal moment in our country’s history.

In the coming months, the people of Pakistan will elect a new government. The caretaker government’s mandate is to facilitate free, fair, and transparent elections. We are committed to abiding by the principles of democracy that are enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution. My government will work diligently to ensure that the people of Pakistan are fully represented in the government that would be formed. A stable and democratic Pakistan is not just a domestic priority; it forms the bedrock of our partnership with countries like the United States.

Ladies and gentlemen, the shared value of democracy, human rights, and rule of law have been the foundation of Pakistan-U.S. enduring partnership spanning over decades and will continue to do so as we revitalize this relationship. Both our countries have prospered whenever we have worked together. We share common values and are committed to the same national and international goals.

Today, as we celebrate seventy-six years of our longstanding ties, I’m happy to note that we are witnessing a brisk momentum in building a standalone, broad-based, and sustainable relationship with the United States seen not through the lens of any other country. Our relationship is based on convergence and mutuality of interests.

Our bilateral agenda encompasses security cooperation, trade and investment, IT, energy, climate change, agriculture, as well as overall connectivity and enhanced people-to-people linkages through greater education and cultural exchanges. Our joint efforts such as Green Alliance framework will help counter climate change, build resilient infrastructure, improve public health, and combat food insecurity.

On economic collaboration, we recently saw the revival of Pakistan-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement after a gap of eight years. The forum has taken momentous decision for now and future, which have paved the way for enhanced investment in Pakistan.

The United State is our largest export destination. Over the past year, Pakistan’s total exports to the U.S. reached an impressive U.S. $8.4 billion. We need to work on U.S. investment in Pakistan.

As caretaker prime minister, I’m making it a priority to improve Pakistan’s business climate and attract U.S. capital and expertise. More than eighty U.S. enterprises are already operating and thriving in Pakistan, contributing to our mutual prosperity. This constitutes a good infrastructure for investment on which we can build further investment partnership.

To attract FDI, we have recently set up the Special Investment Facilitation Council to make Pakistan an attractive destination for investment and innovation in key areas such as agriculture, mining and minerals, information technology, energy, and defense production.

Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Pakistan have always had tremendous cultural affinity for the U.S. Our brightest young men and women aspire to study in U.S. colleges and universities through several scholarship programs, including the best-performing Fulbright scholarships. We look forward to enhancing educational cooperation.

Pakistani-American community in the U.S. is numerous, dynamic, and robust. There are nearly 1 million Pakistani Americans or Americans of Pakistani origin living in the U.S., excelling in all fields here, and acting as a bridge between Pakistan and the United States.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a time when the world’s security challenges have grown increasingly complex. We are witnessing shared threats and challenges that transcend borders such as military conflicts, terrorism, climate change, food insecurity, rising number of refugees, growing economic divide between the rich and poor, and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. These grave issues continue to affect billions of lives worldwide and undermine global peace and security. These shared challenges provide a new and urgent impetus for Pakistan and the United States to strengthen our partnership in pursuit of mutually agreed and mutually beneficial solutions.

As Pakistan still recovers from last year’s devastating climate-driven floods, we are keenly aware of the great threats posed by a warming planet. Pakistan contributes less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet we find ourselves on the frontlines of climate chaos. Pakistan is working hard to mitigate carbon emissions and transition to renewable, but we and other developing nations cannot shoulder the burden alone. Pursuing climate justice requires a collective response with far greater action in industrialized nations. Pakistan led the establishment of loss and damage fund at COP-27 summit last year to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the affects of climate change. However, more work is needed to help safeguard our shared future.

I want to take a moment to thank the United States for its invaluable assistance during the devastating floods last year. (Inaudible)—signify the potential of what we can achieve together.

Ladies and gentlemen, the resurgence of terrorist threat by dangerous entities like TTP and ISIS-K is a matter of grave concern for Pakistan and the entire international community. We must stand united in the face of this newly emerging threat, just as we have done before, to ensure the safety and security of our people.

A stable Afghanistan continues to remain an important foreign policy priority for Pakistan and the United States. We welcome the U.S. direct engagement with the Afghan government, and on our part would continue to push them to honor their commitment to women rights, girls’ education, and ensuring the Afghan soil is not used for terrorist attacks against other countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan understands that peace and stability in is neighborhood is an essential prerequisite for economic prosperity and social-sector development. In this spirit, we desire to have peaceful relations with all countries in the region and beyond. We do not wish to join any current politics. Pakistan has successfully maintained good relations with both the U.S. and China in the past, and would continue to do so. Rather than seeing these relationships as a zero-sum game, we believe that both relationships can coexist and flourish simultaneously.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan remains desirous of peaceful relation with India, but our quest requires reciprocal sincerity by the Indian government. The measure taken by India in 2019 in the Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir have pushed our region into a dangerous and dark alley. The government and the people of Pakistan are deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in IIOJK, including attempts by the BJP government to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory. The rising wave of Hindutva-inspired anti-Muslim extremism in India and other minorities should be a matter of deep concern for the entire international community, including the U.S. We urge the U.S. administration to persuade the Indian government that without amicably resolving the Kashmir dispute as per the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, we cannot free the people of South Asia from perennial instability.

Ladies and gentlemen, I firmly believe a strong Pakistan-U.S. relationship can be a force for stability and progress in South Asia and beyond, but enduring partnerships are not built overnight. They require patience, understanding, and investment on both sides. As Pakistan moves into a new phase in its democratic journey, I am optimistic about deepening ties between our countries. The U.S. continued support and engagement will be crucial economically, diplomatically, and in promoting people-to-people ties. Pakistan today stands ready to work with the United States and all partners who share our vision of a peaceful, prosperous world where cooperation triumphs over conflict.

Thank you. (Applause.)

HADLEY: Prime Minister, thank you again for being here, and thank you for that very clear and comprehensive statement.

KAKAR: Thank you for having me.

HADLEY: What we’re going to do now is I’m going to have a couple questions for you for the next ten minutes or so; then we’re going to turn to the audience, both those members—CFR members who are here in person and those that are participating online; and we will try and respect your schedule and end promptly at 1:00.

So, if I might, I would like to begin with what is a little bit of a sensitive question. I’m going to put you on the spot maybe a little bit. And it goes to the political situation in Pakistan, and particularly the elections. There has been a question about when the elections might be held. There was initial talk about February. I think that was what the Election Commission talked about. Your president then talked about maybe doing it, I believe, in November. And looming over all of this, of course, is the issue of Imran Khan, who was removed from office in a—in a no-confidence vote and then convicted of graft, a conviction that would bar him from running for office for the next five years.

So can you tell us a little bit about: Will the elections be held? When will the elections be held? And how will this play out in this difficult political situation?

KAKAR: Well, thank you so much for raising this pertinent issue, which of course is very close to many Pakistani diasporas and our international friends and observers.

You know that we are a transitional democracy. Post-2008, the successive stint of three parliaments have conclude. And as a constitutional—continuation of our constitutional order, we occupied the incumbency as a caretaker government, and that is our constitutional order. I am not or my government is not the product of a military coup. It’s not of a putsch. I at times get confronted with question as I have taken over the government by force.

When we are talking about the constitutional order, as far as the principle of universal suffrage is concerned, and polls and its date and its execution is concerned, it is clearly mandated by the constitution to a specific body, which is the Election Commission of Pakistan. And our role in this whole context is to provide financial assistance; to provide poll security, which is required; to maintain and observe that polling day, prior to that and after that, when the people would be participating in the political process; arranging rallies, public gatherings; so on and so forth. We are fully committed to that role of ours.

And one of the caveat which to my understanding is that there is a constitutional requirement for the delimitation of different constituencies. And those constituencies delimitation is a constitutional demand due to new census. As we got our new census, how many people we have in Pakistan, now we have got data which is, we believe, correct. And on the basis of that data, we need—or, Election Commission needs, specifically—to create these constituencies. And then a process it there, again, a lawful process where the people come and they can file their criticism or their disagreements on any constituency delimitation. That process, according to my understanding, would take a timeline of maybe another three months, three and a half. That’s where we are looking for, and probably somewhere by the end of January we’re going to go and vote for the new government.

HADLEY: Thank you. That’s helpful.

You mentioned one of your responsibilities leading the caretaker administration will be security for that election period. And I want to go back to something you mentioned in your remarks, the problem of the TTP, the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Many people believe that they are now being given a safe haven by the Taliban—by the Afghan Taliban—in Afghanistan, which is facilitating cross-border terrorism into Pakistan. Pakistan historically over the last ten, fifteen years has done a good job in terms of dealing with some of its terrorism threat.

How do you see the TTP at this point? What are you doing with respect to the Taliban government in Kabul to try to address that threat? And what challenge do you think it poses for the ability to carry off these elections that are coming, hopefully January?

KAKAR: I think—so the situation in the border region along with Afghanistan is not that simplistic as it would appear here in Washington. I used to hear for almost a decade a reverse of the allegation, that TTA (sp) has a safe haven present in Pakistan. And then, when we got concluded with the presence of NATO and ISAF and U.S. forces, and we learned through lessons learned by the SIGAR report, hardly one thing which is mentioned in that report is Pakistan. There are plethora of areas and regions which hints that how did this counterinsurgency or nation-building project or state-building project, whatever you call it, were the squandered opportunity of two decades and around $2 trillion was wasted.

When we approach and see, try to appreciate that complex web, in our mind we are quite clear that we are not dealing with a Westphalian idea of a central state which has all authority and which is extending its execution orders in nook and corner of all of the country. What we are dealing with there is multiple layer of influences of different entities which has masqueraded as a de facto government. This is the situation which we are dealing over there. Sometimes we do see coordination and cooperation, and we do see sort of a mutual interest and convergence of interest, like dealing with ISIS-K. It is in the interest of the de fact Afghan government also that such entities who are violent, who would challenge their own rationale even of taking over a forceful government but still which can claim that they can monopolize the violence in the given territory, if that is—the idea is basically challenged by any group, it doesn’t look good on their part. So there is, in some areas, convergence of interest that those groups should be curtailed, controlled, managed as far as their violent capacity is concerned.

At times, we do feel that there are deficiency and capacity issues, serious. Probably they would be intent to maintain and manage such groups like TTP or others, but they are not fully equipped to do the job. We are seeing that such nonstate actors were not managed fully in terms of curtailing their violent capability with the $2 trillion and the biggest military might documented in mankind’s history with the presence of twenty years. If that could not be attained by militaries from Australia to U.S., from U.S. to U.K., from U.K. to you just name it, how could, on a realistic account, that it should be expected of a(n) insurgent group which was fighting all these forces for the last twenty years and then just morphed into a role where they have to take up the governance? So an insurgent group who only knows fight or how to fight has all of a sudden have to manage that violence, collect taxes, deliver on education account, health services. It’s a big ambitious.

And in that ambition, I feel—because we have direct implications. My soldiers are being killed on a daily basis. The civilian populace is being targeted on a daily basis, particularly in the two provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. We have to set the milestones which are achievable, which are doable. And we do believe that we are not alone in resolving this issue, because the threat at a level it is imminent for Pakistan, but in the mid-term future I feel it is a threat to the whole region. So a regional approach is required, along with all the neighborhood of Afghanistan.

I recall here a prescient couplet of a poet of east who we call and identify as Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. He commented on the situation of Afghanistan in a very interesting, prescient couplet that—(speaks in a foreign language)—that the body politic of entire Asia is like an idol, and the nation or nationhood of Afghan is placed like a heart in that idol. And if there is a chaos in the heart, there will be chaos in the whole of Asia. And if there is a peace in heart there will be peace in the whole of continent.

This is the guiding principle. This is enlightening principle. This is where we draw our inspiration to approach, see, and draw conclusion how Afghanistan should be dealt with, which has direct connection with groups like that. So we have got a holistic approach of application of kinetics, having different leverages in terms of trade, having other economic opportunities that could be offered as leverage, and encouraging our traditional social, political, and historical ties.

Because no matter what people say, let me remind you and your audience that we are a country who has been host to around 5 million Afghans for five decades. There are people who were born there. There are people who were raised there. There are people who are buried. All they know about Afghanistan is that it was an ancestral place from where their parentage came. But for all the practical purposes, they have attended our schools. They have attended our colleges. They have attended our universities.

People would argue that there is a constituency of anti-Pakistan sentiment within Afghanistan. Well, there is. And I—as a Pashtun, I do understand the genesis of that and the background of that. But on a larger account, when it comes people-to-people contact, I’ve always seen that Afghans have got more of a positive investment in Pakistani society rather than normally people would.

HADLEY: We could spend the next hour and a half on this—(laughs)—subject that you have raised. I appreciate that response.

We are running short of time, so I’m going to stop any further questions I have and turn to our audience here. Please raise your hand. I will call on you. Stand up, please indicate who you are and any affiliation you have, and then the prime minister will answer your question. We’ll start in the back.

Yes, ma’am? On—on the aisle there.

Q: Thank you very much, sir. This is Samira Khan (sp) from Samaa Television, Pakistan. I’ve traveled from Pakistan to attend UNGA and, obviously, this esteemed organization sitting right here.

Being a prime minister of Pakistan, you just hinted upon a few very vital challenges that Pakistan is facing right now. And top of the list, because I’m a security analyst as well and I cover war and conflict for Pakistan for last nineteen years. So do you see any silver lining, do you see any light at the end of the tunnel, specifically talking about from the Afghan side right now. That we have a huge, troubled border sharing with Afghanistan. So can you hint upon some of the issues right now, that are we able to handle those problems? You being caretaker prime minister of Pakistan, do you think that you’re going to leave these challenges to the coming government who’s going to take charge after you? Thank you.

HADLEY: Thank you.

KAKAR: Well, in my audience I presume there is a Japanese presence also. And after Pearl Harbor, the kind of relation U.S. and Japan enjoys does give me reasons for all the silver linings and being hopeful. And when I think about the German occupancy of Eastern Europe, and then its western neighborhood also, and when I see EU as a bloc, it multiplies and amplifies my silver lining. I do not see that Pakistan-Afghan relationship are mired to the level that even human history is failed to guide us, and enlighten us, and keep us sanguine. So that’s all I would respond to your query. I am very hopeful. We need to be focused, consistent, and with an open mind if we approach one another. There are many areas where we can have a focused outcome as for mutual interest to both sides.

HADLEY: I’m going to remind everyone that this session, of course, is on the record. And we’re going to go to one of our online members for their question.

OPERATOR: We will take the next question from Shirin Tahir-Kheli.

Q: As-salaam alaikum, Mr. Prime Minister.

KAKAR: Wa-alaikum salaam.

Q: This is Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

I’d like to back up to the first question that Steve Hadley asked you, and sort of asked if you believe that—given political parties disagreements currently on show in Pakistan—whether you believe that these parties will agree to the rules of the game for an inclusive and fair election in Pakistan. Thank you.

KAKAR: Would the parties agree? I couldn’t get the question.

HADLEY: Could you—Shirin, could you clarify a little bit? Who are you talking about in terms of your question?

Q: Well, in other words, there seems—do you expect all the major political parties that currently exist in Pakistan to be part of—be able to take part in the upcoming election, all of them?

HADLEY: Will there be participation by all the—

KAKAR: Well, I do not have any confusion in my mind, nor in the government, that all the parties who are registered with Election Commission of Pakistan are legally, politically, morally allowed. And they will participate in the political process. There is no confusion as far as the government or the caretaker government.

HADLEY: Thank you for that. Yes, sir.

Q: As-salaam alaikum, Mr. Prime Minister.

My question is, as you’re aware of the unfolding situation, the crisis between India and Canada, or allegedly killing of their citizen by the intelligence agencies of India, as explained by the Prime Minister of Canada, you’re from the Balochistan, sir. And you’ve been seeing this insurgency. In fact, we have a (good question ?) that of the naval officers captured from the same region where you belong and you’re from. Do you—are you going to—are you going to raise this question in tomorrow’s speech? Or do you have anything to say about that, sir?

KAKAR: I think, so the problem is more deep-rooted even then my reference in tomorrow’s speech. And why I say so? I am a caretaker prime minister of a country. I’m not a propagandist for it. My fear is more deep rooted in the serious business of mainstreaming of Hindutva—(inaudible). I am fully aware that how does and from where they are taking those skewed and distorted, revivalist historical views and giving it a political color, and explaining and giving meaning to a new social contract on Indian union. It’s not the social contract which was taken inspiration by Rousseau. It’s of Savarkar. And that is, as a lot of ideological affinities and brotherhood, the Saffron Brotherhood is more near to the Nazis brotherhood. I’m not accusing here anyone. I’m talking about the empirical evidence and data published by international academia. It is not what Pakistan is saying.

This trend of Hindutva—which was encapsulated and mainstreamed by RSS, and BHP, and other affiliated groups—is an existential threat for the peripheral existence of all the minority, be it Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and others. The idea that they haven’t got the peripheral right to exist, or if they want to be mainstream they have to have an alteration of identity. They can be Hindu Christians, or Hindu Muslims, or Hindus Sikhs. But that grand idea of—which they sometimes convey in a relatively innocuous manner—that this is a cultural expression, which it definitely is not. It’s a purely political one. And is as a serious challenge for Indian union to exist as a pluralistic liberal democracy.

This is a domestic challenge. And that challenge is translating itself into the regional as well. Because when you do take such chauvinistic tendencies, you want to dominate the region in the first phase. And here comes conversion, and the commander, and encouraging and financing and supporting the terror activities at the behest of the state—Indian state. Unfortunately, the decent Indian people, the hard-earning people, the taxpayers’ money is covertly being directed for such gory actions which they might not affiliate, which they might not side with. And I’m pretty much sure, and I’m a believer in the positive nature of human being. But these ideologues of Hindutva, they are becoming emboldened in a manner that they are now going beyond the reach. And this initial unfortunate killing of Mr. Singh on Canadian soil is a reflection of that ominous tendency.

We, Pakistan, have always been critical of this jingoistic, belligerent Indian attitude. But for obvious economic and strategic reasons, many players in the Western capital chose ignore this fact and reality, and this side of politics over there. To me, Hindutva, ISIS, center of the right present on European continent, probably even here in the U.S., in nature it’s a global brotherhood of fascism. It’s a global brotherhood of chauvinism. It’s a global brotherhood of darkness. And all the decent human beings who are on the other side of the divide, who believe in pluralistic society who believe in diversification, who believe and agree to disagree, they should be wary of these tendencies. It’s not just the elimination of a single individual. It’s an upcoming challenge with the global order, where they’re trying to explain and claim that they have an alternate order even to the Western civilization. And the Western civilization can learn from the old, endless, and sacred-based inspiration.

And let me clarify, by the way, Hindutva has got nothing to do with the beautiful and decent religion of Hinduism. Hinduism is all together a different spiritual experiment of last four (thousand) or five thousand years, based in the sacred Vedas. It resides in our region. It belongs to our region. And it is, in my opinion, even a partial—a part of Pakistani identity also, because we have got sizable Hindu population. Hinglaj Mata is one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage site of my province, in which all over the world the Hindus would be interested to come and visit and do the pilgrimage. So that needs to be discerned.

HADLEY: We’re running a little short of time here. I’m going to check my watch. Let’s do another question from here. We’ll take another question then from Zoom. And then we’ll see where we are.

So, ma’am, in the yellow back here.

Q: Hi. I’m Allison Silver from 4Context.

We have been reading a lot about the Chinese economy and the issues there. I was wondering if you could just explain for us what the relationship is now between Pakistan and China?

HADLEY: Good question. What is the relationship between Pakistan and China?

KAKAR: In terms of economics, or?

HADLEY: I think probably the whole—she started in terms of economics and the economic problems China is facing. That may be a piece of that, but I think the real question—a lot of Americans have a question, what is the relationship between U.S.—between Pakistan and China? How would you characterize that relationship?

KAKAR: Well, Pakistan enjoys a strategic relationship with Pakistan—with China. We are very clear that there are people who would qualify Pakistan as China’s Israel. It is probably more a good analogy for an American audience, because you do understand and appreciate the value of Israel for the United States. Pakistan and China has a lot in common in terms of the emerging threats within region. There are commonality on certain issues, for instance, one China policy, be it in Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan. We do share commonalities and share the stated goals that we would stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, and it is reciprocated by the Chinese side as well.

Let me remind you, when in 2013—around 2012 and ’13, when the people—many people around the—Western capitals, they were predicting that Pakistan is a failed state and it’s going to be dysfunctional soon. In that context our Chinese friends intervened, and they jumped in with a sizable project, which was a showcase project of their basic BRI initiative, known as CPEC. And from there, the confidence and positive, I would say, the feeling in the market initiated that this is not the case that Pakistan is a dysfunctional, dystopian state, becoming one. And the revival, the economic revival, initiated from that point.

We got infrastructure development projects. Our port development started from there. Energy interventions—sustainable energy interventions projects were initiated. And we have realized its first phase. Now, we are transforming to it second and then long-term, third phase of these projects. I feel we have a lot of potential for trade and economic activity with each other, because it’s next door 1.5 billion population which is friendly, which is perceptive. There are areas of gaps in which we can trade more with one another, though at the moment it is very much under-invested. Our relationship has a lot of potential to improve.

Strategically, we have always sided with each other. When I’m explaining and talking about the positive bonding between China and Pakistan, we do appreciate and understand at the same time that there is a misperception at a global scale or at a regional scale that there is an adversary or maybe hard pursued between two great powers of United States and China. We don’t see that happening. We don’t see that happening at all. We do see a sort of economic competitiveness between the two great economies, between the different civilizations. Yes, we do see that there is mid-sized entities within our region and beyond our region which has incentivized this paranoid and insecure situation between the two huge powers. And if they do not exploit on that, there wouldn’t be enough tension for irritation.

And the so-called containment of China policy, which has become jargon for the people on the—mostly in the center of the right here in the U.S. or on European continent, when this policy of containment of China was started somewhere, early ’90s, it was, what, eight or nineth largest economy of the world? Now, as we speak, it has become the second largest. And probably within few years, the dragon would be the first largest economy of the world. What do we do with this containment policy? Has it worked? Is there any alternate governance competitive system which needs to be altered or changed?

And if that doesn’t realize, my own humble assessment is, that containment policy would convert into engagement of China. And this entire strategic calculus which we are seeing right now would be morphed, and it would be changed, and all the pertinent questions which seems to be pointed at Pakistan and our relationship with China would alter. And probably we would be witnessing the 1971 era, when Kissinger flew to Islamabad and did a rapprochement with China through Pakistani capital. So I do see an opportunity that there is an engagement economically, politically, socially. China and Pakistan would be partner in that journey.

HADLEY: Prime Minister, I think some of us would say that we did not have a containment policy in the 1990s. I would say, in the Bush administration, we did not have a containment policy of China during our eight years. And the Biden administration would say they don’t have a containment policy of China now. So in some sense, I think some of your comments are maybe a little troubling to the American audience.

I want to ask you something and then we’re all at the end of time, but I think it’s very important to say. Given what you’ve said about China, are there limits to the Pakistani-China relationship? In particular, maybe limits in terms of security cooperation or military cooperation? Because Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally of the United States. And we think that must mean something. And so I guess I would ask just in closing here, if you would say a word about are there limits that you see in the relationship between Pakistan and China, and particularly in the area of security.

KAKAR: Well, Pakistan is a sovereign and independent country when it comes to security and strategic issues, when it would involve its—and would have implications for its own population. Our top priority is Pakistan. And it would limit, and it would guide us that we exercise all our options in the best of our own interest. But what I was referring to is there’s tons of literature available—probably Western academia is talking, and some policymakers are talking. It may not be the government’s official position, but it’s a well-entrenched position in Western universities, in Western capitals, probably in think tanks.

And everyone that talks about this idea of containing China in a very open and candid manner. That’s where I borrowed and initiated my own analysis on the situation. It was not just to make uncomfortable anymore. But as far as the strategic and security policy choices I can send, Pakistan always would prefer its own interest, while viewing, and having a balance, and giving priority to our strategic partner, China. Its legitimate interest would always be an area which we would be considering perpetually.

HADLEY: Thank you. I think we’re out of time. I want to thank the members of CFR who’ve joined us today, both here in the room and also by Zoom. Obviously, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for coming and spending time with us, and being so candid in your comments.

KAKAR: Thank you for having me.

HADLEY: Please note that a video and transcript of this session will be posted on the CFR website. And we hope you can join us for CFR’s next hybrid event, which will be with the prime minister of Malaysia today at 2:00. And I would ask if members—(coughs)—excuse me—would remain seated until the prime minister has exited. And, again, Prime Minister, thank you for being with us.

KAKAR: Thank you. (Applause.)

(END)

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