PakistanPaedia - Pakistan's Foreign Relations / Foreign Policy

Pakistan's Foreign Relations

Pakistan is no doubt a strategically located country at the mouth of the most frequented trade and oil route of Persian Gulf and opening to the Indian Ocean, surrounded by some of the front line and most talked about countries like China in the north, India in the east, Iran and Afghanistan in west and north-west. The sea and land component thus add to the importance of Pakistan not only in the region, but in international relations and trade as well. recently, Pakistan's role in the war against terror has brought it in the forefronts of world politics. Since its independence, however, its relations with its neighbours, specially India on the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir has brought Pakistan and India to war a number of times, while relations with Afghanistan always remain sore, because of Russian and Indian influence on Afghan foreign policy. Iran, though a Muslim country, also has lukewarm relations with Pakistan. This leaves China to be the only trusted ally of Pakistan in the region since its independence.

The Foreign Policy of Pakistan strives for the promotion of peace and security at the regional and global levels. It also aims at accelerating the country's socio-economic progress. In keeping with its international obligations and in conformity with the United Nations Charter, Pakistan consistently seeks friendship and cooperation in its foreign relations on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual respect and benefit, non-interference and peaceful settlement of disputes.

Pakistan 's foreign policy is guided by its history, geographical location and the aspiration of its people. It is also responsive to regional and international imperatives. Given the persistent challenges, Pakistan has opted for a proactive foreign policy. While there are elements of continuity in the foreign policy, as they should be, there is also a change of emphasis and nuance. The essence of Pakistan's Foreign Policy are:-

pak china relationsAsk anyone in the streets of Pakistan as to which country is Pakistan's best ally, and the unanimous answer would be in the favour of China. Pakistan was one of the first groups of countries that recognized China on May 21, 1951. Since then, China and Pakistan have witnessed smooth development of friendly and neighbourly relations as well as mutually beneficial cooperation.  Although, initially the relations were not very warm due Pakistan's alienation towards West, it was during the Bandung Conference in 1955 that the prime ministers of both countries (Premier Zhou Enlai and Prime Minister M. Ali) decided to further strengthen their relations. In October 1956, at the invitation of the Chinese Government, Pakistani Prime Minister Suherwardi paid an official visit to China, reciprocated by China the same year when Premier Zhou Enlai visited Pakistan in December. This successful exchange of visits within one year greatly promoted the development of friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries and strengthened the friendship between the two peoples.  In 1961, by voting for the bill concerning the restoration of China's legitimate rights in the UN put to the vote the UN General Assembly, the Pakistani Government took a step forward in the course of improving the Sino-Pakistani relations. In 1962, the two countries, through friendly talks, reached an agreement in principle on the position and alignment of Sino-Pakistani boundary. In March 1963, the two countries signed a boundary agreement on China's Xinjiang and the adjacent areas whose defence was under the actual control of Pakistan. In February 1964, Premier Zhou Enlai visited Pakistan. The hallmark visit of President Ayub Khan to China in December 1964 opened a new era of friendship and long term partnership between the two countries. President Ayub was so warmly received by the Chinese that people still remember that warmth even today. In March 1966, President Liu Shaoqi visited Pakistan. pak china relationsThese two visits paved way for an everlasting friendship between these two great countries, which remains as strong and time tested even today. China fully supported Pakistan against India on Kashmir issue and backed Pakistan morally, militarily and economically whenever Pakistan called for help. Pakistan also played an important part in breaking the thaw in Sino-US relations in 1971 when President Nixon went to China through Pakistan. Since 1990s, great changes have taken place in the international situation. Instead of being affected by the changing situation, the time-tested friendship and cooperation between China and Pakistan has further developed. China provided all manner of diplomatic and political support, including accepting Pakistan’s position of plebiscite over Kashmir. In April 1971 Zhou Enlai expressed steadfast commitment to Pakistan’s territorial integrity and expressed the view that the situation in East Pakistan was an internal matter for Pakistan. 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Pakistani diplomatic relations and colourful celebrations were held in the two countries.

Since the early 1950, China and Pakistan have established trade relations. In January 1963, they signed their first trade agreement. In October 1982, China-Pakistan Joint Committee of Economy, Trade and Technology was set up. With the joint efforts from both sides, Sino-Pakistani economic and trade cooperation has seen good progress. Especially since the 1990s, their bilateral trade volume has witnessed relatively fast growth. In 2002 alone, Sino-Pakistani trade volume reached US$ 1.8 billion, a new record in terms of their trade relations. China is the major contributor of defence equipment to Pakistan. The recent joint venture of JF-17 Thunder multi-role jet aircraft has further cemented the ties between the two countries. Recently, the Chinese President paid a four days official visit to Pakistan (23-26 November 2006), in which China and Pakistan signed 18 MOUs/agreements, including a five-year pact of economic cooperation, agreement for free trade, provision of AWAC aircraft, sponsoring establishment of a complex which will manufacture defence related electronics. The Chinese president was accorded very warm welcome both at Islamabad and Lahore airports - which reflects strong friendly ties between the two great countries and the love that Pakistani people have for their Chinese brthern.

pak turkey relationsPakistan's relations with Turkey are of special significance since support of the Muslims of Indian sub continent to their Turk brethren in its war against the Allies during and after the WW-I and later due Pakistan's support to Turkey on the issue of Cyprus. Even today, upon hearing the name of Pakistan, the faces of Turks glitter with deep love and affection. And this is equally reciprocated in Pakistan as well. A fine example of this traditional love and bondage is the demonstration of thousands of Turk students in Ankara on 11 September 1965 when Pakistan was in war with India, chanting slogans against India and reiterating their desire to go and fight with their Pakistan brothers. Pakistan, Turkey and Iran have been the members of RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development) since 1964 till overthrow of Shah of Iran's regime in Iran. Now the same organization, renamed as ECO in 1984 has more members of the regions, and Turkey continues to support Pakistan in ECO on all matters of economic cooperation and development.

pak ksa relationsPakistan's relations with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are very special for two reasons: one for the presence of the two holiest Muslims places at Makkah and Medina, and secondly Saudi Arabia's unequivocal support, both diplomatic and economic, to Pakistan since its independence. The ties were at their zenith during the late Shah Faisal's regime, who viewed Pakistan as his second home. People in Pakistan still revere the late Shah and his photographs can still be seen on the backs of artfully decorated trucks and buses. Even today, The Saudi-Pak relations are very warm and cordial, and are time tested.

pak iran relationsIran was the first country that recognized Pakistan on 22 August 1947. Pakistan's relations with Iran have since been friendly, if not very friendly - mainly due to differences of Islamic beliefs. However, Iran has always supported Pakistan in troubled times and was in forefronts to provide all possible assistance to Pakistan with its disputes with India, specially in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Since the institution of Islamists government in Iran, the relations between the two countries remain just cordial and lukewarm. Pakistan on its part is always on the lookout to support Iran on all international foras, specially these days on its nuclear issue. The proposed gas pipeline between Iran - Pakistan and India may further improve the relations between Iran and Pakistan.

Relations with Other Muslim Countries: Pakistan attaches a special value to its relations with Islamic countries and is committed unreservedly to all Muslim causes and the strengthening of cooperation among Islamic countries. This has been an unshakeable pillar of our foreign policy. Pakistan has earned the esteem of the Islamic world for its consistent and effective advocacy of Muslim causes, specially at the United Nations. The Islamic world stretches from the Far East Morocco in the West and provides Pakistan with special bonds that stretch half way across the globe and across cultures. The support of the "Ummah" has contributed to our success in having our resolutions adopted at the UN, and in elections to various UN bodies.
Pakistan enjoys very warm and cordial relations with all Muslim countries, specially Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan and Morocco. Indonesia was among those countries who not only recognized Pakistan soon after the partition, but its president Sukarno also paid an official visit to Pakistan as early as 1950. Indonesia also supported and helped Pakistan during 1965 Indo-Pak war against India. Jordan has all along been a strong ally of Pakistan. Prince Hasan bin Talal, brother of late King Hussain married from Pakistan, which further cemented the relations between the two countries.
Of late, Pakistan has also developed strong economic ties with Malaysia and under ex prime minister Mr. Mahatir Muhammad, the relations between the two countries grew more strong and lasting.  The Middle East region is a major trading partner accounting for annual exports of around US$ 1.4 billion, and is host to 1.5 million expatriate workers from Pakistan who send substantial home remittances.

Pakistan's relations with India are well known to the entire world and are even source of concern and conflict in the region, specially since the two countries have gone nuclear recently. Since the independence from the British in August 1947, the relations have two countries have been anything than satisfactory - the reason is the Kashmir dispute and the Indians' heartburn over the creation of Pakistan that divided the united Hindustan. Pakistan and India have gone to war as early as 1948, twice in 1965, 1971, the Kargil and the eye ball to eyeball contact in 2002. India has always tried to downplay Pakistan in the region since it cannot swallow a much smaller country to challenge its dominance over all other countries of South East Asia. Even the matters of SAARC are badly mauled as India does not want any bilateral issues such as Kashmir to be discussed in the SAARC. Moreover, India has always tried to woo Pakistan through building up its military might and increasing its defence budget almost every year and acquiring the latest weapons that have always been used against Pakistan. Although, there is a thaw in the relations of the two country recently, and the two countries are progressing forward, though at a snail speed, many doubt the sincerity of India to work with Pakistan to find a solution to Kashmir dispute. But no such solutions seems in sight, since India considers Kashmir as part of its federation and has not budged an inch from its stated stance ever since 1947 and Simla Agreement after 1971 Indo-Paki war. Although president of Pakistan has recently suggested to India to mutually pull back forces from Kashmir and give administration of Kashmir under a joint control, India has not moved forward. India has also started building of dams on rivers that were to exclusively used by Pakistan as per the 1969 Indus Basin Water Treaty. India has also been found involved in conspiring against Pakistan and worsening the Pakistan and Afghanistan relations, since such a situation would tie down over 100,000 troops of Pakistan Army on Pak-Afghan border, much to the strategic advantage to India.

Varying Shades of Pakistan - India Relations

Despite improving bilateral trade and transportation relations by commencing bus service between India and Pakistan and between the two Kashmirs (IHK and Azad Kashmir), many consider that unless India shows flexibility in its stance on Kashmir and water sharing of rivers, the normalization of relations between Pakistan and India would remain a far cry.

The Mumbai Mayhem: On 26th November, a few individuals attacked the Taj and  Oberoi Hotels and a few other places with dynamite and few other places in Mumbai - though the incident was rather gory and sad, it was very unfortunate that Manmohan Singh spared no time and within hours of the attack without going into any detailed investigation  raised his finger at Pakistan. And that too when only the other day the two countries' interior secretaries decided in their Islamabad meeting not to blame each other for terrorist acts without substantive evidence. He should have waited for his panel's report. But he did not, replicating his Congress party's mainstream rival BJP, which his own party president Sonia Gandhi had recently berated in a party meeting for accusing Pakistan of every terrorist act in India impetuously. The regret is that Singh's accusation will leave the real culprits go laughing all the way. The very early reaction from Indian has many to ponder as to what was the urgency in blaming Pakistan for people who drank beer hours before the attack, when the Indian claimed them to be Muslims and suicide attackers - no Muslim dying for the cause of Islam have beer hours before death. And no one pondered why despite threats as claimed by the Indian government. the security of the hotels was relaxed days before attacks? These are questions that will be answered in due course - but for now all on going talks between the two countries have been suspended and the path to normalcy halted.

pak afghan relationsRelations with Afghanistan, like relations with India, have always been troublesome. It would be worthwhile to mention that despite being a Muslim country, Afghanistan was the only country which did not recognize Pakistan after its independence. Kabul, in fact, had already started demanding the North West Frontier Region of would be Pakistan to be given to Afghanistan soon after the 3 June 1947 partition declaration. The relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan went down to their lowest ebb when on 29 March 1955, the Pakistani flag in Kabul was burnt down and Pakistani diplomatic offices in Kabul and Jalalabad were ransacked. Days later, on 1 May, the Pakistani flag was again burnt and Pakistan threatened to sever its relations with Afghanistan. However, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt made Afghanistan to apologize for burning the Pakistani flag, which Pakistan accepted and on 13 September 1955 the Pakistan flag once again fluttered on Pakistan Embassy in Kabul. However there were many occasions thereafter, that showed Afghan animosity against Pakistan. During the hay days of communist Soviet Union, the Afghan governments had very bitter attitude towards Pakistan. Even the Pakistani visitors were harassed and tracked inside Afghanistan. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 brought Pakistan one to one against the Soviet Union when Pakistan supported the Mujahideen, backed by CIA and the US government, against the Soviet army. However, soon after the defeat and exodus of the Soviets, US backed off, leaving the affairs of Afghanistan in a lurch. This gave rise to the Taliban backed government in Afghanistan - who were the same Mujahideen who earlier fought the Soviets on behest of the USA. The war against terror brought the downfall of the Taliban and brought the Northern Alliance, which was once backed by the Soviets, to power. Since the institution of the new government in Afghanistan, the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been bitterly strained and Afghans, backed by their trusted ally India, leave no stone unturned to accuse Pakistan for meddling into their affairs. The president and prime minister of Pakistan have very recently accused Afghanistan for creating law and order situation in Pakistan border areas, specially the Waziristan. One wonders when the relations between the two countries would take a new turn for good - not otherwise.

pak us friendshipThe US-Pak relations are tell tale of many ups and downs - from friends to accusations and then strategic partners. Upon its independence, Pakistan on the cost of annoying the Soviet Union sided with the US and even joined organizations like the SEATO and CENTO that were meant to safeguard the US interests. Pakistan got a massive aid in return just after the Korean War to bolster its defence requirements. However, the relations between the two countries were bitterly strained when India attacked Pakistan in 1965 and USA stopped all its military aid to Pakistan, despite the fact that Pakistan was its ally being member of CENTO / SEATO. Pakistan as a protest delineated itself from these organizations. Pakistan later in early 70s played an important role to bridge the relations between the USA and China. The Pak-US relations witnessed a new dimension during Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and Pakistan assisted the Mujahideen on American behest to fight against the Soviets. In return, USA gave a big military package to Pakistan, including 40 F-16 aircraft. However, the USA backed off its support to Afghan Mujahideen soon after the defeat of Soviets in 1988 and left Pakistan all alone. The USA even came close to accusing Pakistan as a terrorist state since it was supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. USA also stooped all economic aid to Pakistan when Pakistan rightfully retaliated to series of nuclear tests by India and conducted its own nuclear tests successfully despite stern warnings from the USA. However, after 9/11, the relations between USA and Pakistan are witnessing a new upward trend once again since Pakistan has joined the USA in its war against terror. The recent visit of US president Bush on 3-4 March 2006 further strengthens the ties of the two countries. But seeing the previous history, many in Pakistan feel insecure and to be left again by the USA after its interests are achieved. Although Pakistan has been a trusted partner in US's War against Terror, it has suffered more than any collation partner both in terms of martial and human losses, specially in numerous suicides attacks. The on going operations in the FATA and areas adjoining Afghanistan have been viewed by most Pakistanis with much skepticism as they do not find any connection with the US interests and as those of our own. Pakistan in fact has been made a hostage both by the militants and the US and is suffering day by day. An estimate shows that Pakistan has suffered almost Rs. 700 billion since joining the US. With the exodus of President Musharraf, installation of the new democratic government in Pakistan, many Pakistanis believe that new president in USA Mr Obama would make a change - if wishes were horses .....

Pictorial View of Pak US Relations - Photographs Courtesy Robert J. McMahon

Pak - US Relations - The Early Days

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Left to Right: Truman receives Liaquat Ali Khan - Guard of Honour at Washington Airport May 1950

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Left to Right: Kennedy introduces Ayub to Jacky - September 1962, Dinner at White House with ex US president Eisenhower, Ayub with Kennedy at White House

The memorable video of the reception accorded to President Ayub Khan when he visited USA [video courtesy: YouTube]

A special Envelope of US Mail printed on occasion of President Ayub's Visit to the US - Autographed by the President

1971 was the fateful Year for Pakistan - While Pakistani President Yaya (left) played an important role in bridging the gap in strained US-China relations and routing President Nixon (right) from Pakistan to Peking, the US later forgot its ally during the dark days of December 1971.

The Recent Past

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Left to Right: President Bush in Pakistan - March 2006 with the then President Musharraf and Prime Minister Aziz, Bush learning cricket in Pakistan

Relations with USSR / Russia: The relations with former USSR / Soviet Russia had been very strained since Pakistan's alienation towards the West, specially the USA soon after independence. India took advantage of this and had since very strategic relations with USSR and now Russia. While the Russians always stood by their Indian friends, USA has always backed out of support to Pakistan on a number of occasions. Pakistan's support to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan further strained the relations between the two countries. However, after the demise of the Soviet Russia and ushering in the era of glasnost, there is a new dimension to the Russian outlook towards Pakistan - though a very cautious one. The present government is making all out efforts to befriend wit the Russians, but it seems that it will take much longer than assumed before the relations between Pakistan and Russia can be considered as cordial and friendly.

pakistanpaedia pakistan-japan relations

For the last 50 years, Japan-Pakistan Relations have made a steady progress, as exemplified by exchange of many high-level visits like the visit to Japan by President General Parvez Musharraf in March 2002, and the visit to Pakistan of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in August 2000. Pakistan - Japan relations kicked off when in April 1957, Pakistan's Prime Minister Mr. H.S. Suhrawardy visited Japan, which was soon reciprocated in May 1957 by the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Shinsuke Kishi, who also signed the first Cultural Exchange Agreement between the two countries.

pakistanpaedia pakistan japan relations

In December 1960 President General Ayub Khan visited Japan (above left) to further cement the long and friendly relations between the two countries. General Pervez Musharraf, former President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan paid an official working visit to Japan (above right) from March 12 to 15, 2002. The two countries signed the  Agreement for Promotion and Protection of Investment on 29 April 2005. Japan today highly appreciates the important roles played by Pakistan both regionally and globally in the rapidly changing international frameworks. It is Japan's earnest hope to broaden the horizon of cooperative relations with Pakistan through more dialogues so as to chart a new course for the coming years. Pakistan also earnestly reciprocates the Japanese sentiments and continues to value its friendship and trade with Japan in very high esteem.

pak eu relationsPakistan enjoys very cordial relations with most of the EU member countries, specially the UK, Germany, France and Italy. Meaningful trade relations have been established with a number of European countries. Substantial foreign investments in Pakistan come from European countries, which are also a source of important development assistance programme in Pakistan.
While the change of government in Pakistan in October 1999 created some difficulties with the European countries, with the passage of time there was greater appreciation of the governments’ policies and wide-ranging reform agenda. Since 11 September particularly, there has been a marked improvement in the attitude and outlook of Europe towards Pakistan. Pakistan relations with the European Union have particularly been on an upswing with an important agreement on trade concessions coming into effect and the signing of a new Cooperation Agreement.

Relations with the Central Asian Republics: Pakistan enjoys close and cordial relations with the Central Asian Republics, which are rested in shared history, culture and traditions. A number of agreements have been signed with these states, covering various spheres of cooperation. The recent ones include an Extradition Treaty with Uzbekistan in addition to a Consular Agreement and an Agreement on Cooperation in Custom Administration. Two agreements with Kyrgyzstan regarding Consular Assistance and Mutual Assistance on Civil, Criminal and Family Affairs are in the offing. Defence and military cooperation agreement with Azerbaijan is in the pipeline. Agreement on avoidance of Double Taxation with Tajikistan is also being considered. A Quadrilateral Agreement including China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan was signed in 1995. It still awaits implementation on account of a dispute by Kazakhstan on the number of road permits and transit fee. Efforts are underway to resolve the issue. In the meantime, a Trilateral Agreement has also been formalized under the Quadrilateral Agreement provisionally between Pakistan, China and Kyrgyzstan to start trade and other related economic activity between the three countries.

Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC): Pakistan actively participated in the activities of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The OIC continued to extend valuable support to Pakistan on the issues of vital importance including Kashmir and the fight against international terrorism. The President attended the Ninth Islamic Summit in Doha, Qatar, in. November 2000, which expressed OIC’s support to the struggle of the Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination. The 29th session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers held in Khartoum in June 2002 reiterated this support and called for reduction of tensions between India and Pakistan and appreciated Pakistan’s position to resolve its disputes with India through dialogue. In the post 11 September scenario, the Organization supported the efforts against international terrorism and emphasized the need for a comprehensive definition of terrorism and called for addressing its root causes.

SAARC: Pakistan is formally committed to the principles and objectives of SAARC. It favours consolidation of the progress made through better coordination for result-oriented activities and avoidance of venturing into too many areas. Pakistan believes that a peaceful and secure environment in the region is of vital importance for the promotion of economic development. It is imperative that the member states commit themselves to removing the underlying causes of tension in the region and to foster trust, friendship and good neighbourly relations. Addressing the Eleventh SAARC Summit, the President observed, among other things, that even after 16 years of growth, SAARC had not been able to mature to its full potential. He stressed the need for joint action for early realization of the objectives enshrined in the SAARC Charter and assured Pakistan’s full cooperation and participation for this purpose. The President emphasized the need to bring to bear wisdom, sagacity, tolerance and sense of justice to resolve problems facing the region.

pakistanpaedia economic cooperation organizationEconomic Cooperation Organization (ECO): ECO is an inter-governmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of sustainable socio-economic development of the Member States. ECO is the successor organization of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD). In 1964, Pakistan signed the RCD Pact with Turkey and Iran, when all three countries were closely allied with the USA – and as neighbors of the Soviet Union, wary of perceived Soviet expansionism. To this day, Pakistan has a close relationship with Turkey. RCD became defunct after the Iranian revolution. In 1985 a Pakistani-Turkish initiative led to the founding of the ECO, an organization that now also includes Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

ECO has played an important role in the strengthening and promotion of multi-dimensional cooperation and sustained socioeconomic growth among the member states. Besides strengthening the centuries old ties that exist between the people of these countries ECO is intended to build infrastructural links, and promote business exchanges and economic development. In terms of infrastructure the ECO is focusing on the development of a modern transport and communications system, a network of gas and oil pipeline and interconnection of power grids within the region. Pakistan's interest in ECO reflects its belief in regional cooperative arrangements, which foster regional development and economic progress and prosperity through collective endeavours. We aspire to make ECO an effective instrument of regional cooperation serving the needs of 340 million people in the ten member states spread over an area of over 7 million square kilometres - an area immensely rich in natural resources including oil and gas. The mutual relations of member-states exude harmony and cordiality. Read More ....

ASEAN: Although the economic melt down in South East Asia and difficulties faced by Pakistan in the aftermath of the nuclearization of South Asia, did have a negative impact, we continue to make consistent efforts to strengthen our political and economic links with the ASEAN countries. Our "Look East" policy remains an important aspect of our foreign policy. Pakistan enjoys sectoral dialogue partnership with ASEAN in several key areas and is looking forward to becoming a full dialogue partner. The ASEAN-Pakistan joint Sectoral Cooperation Committee was established in the recent past to institutionalize interaction with ASEAN.

UN, NAM and other International Forums: Pakistan actively participated in all-important events held under the UN and NAM auspices. The President attended the South Summit in Havana in April 2000, the UN Millennium Summit in New York in September 2000 and the 57th Session of the UN General Assembly. At these forums the President highlighted the plight of the Kashmiri people and exposed Indian repressive policies in the IHK and called upon the international community to play its role in helping resolve the long festering issue of Jammu and Kashmir. The President met with a number of heads of state during these visits.

"Dynamics of Pakistan's Foreign Policy in the new World Order" - Mr. Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of the Republic of Pakistan - Conference Address at the IRRI-KIIB Chaired by Karel de Gucht, Minister of Foreign Affairs Belgium. Brussels, January 26, 05.


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