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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

World

PML-N will revisit foreign policy: Sharif's aide
PTI
Islamabad, May 13, 2013
First Published: 13:17 IST(13/5/2013)
Last Updated: 13:19 IST(13/5/2013)

The PML-N, which is set to form government in Pakistan, will revisit the foreign policy "including all "covert and overt" agreements with the US" while ties with India will be picked up from where they were left off in 1999, according to a media report on Monday.

The focus of PML-N's foreign policy will be on safeguarding the "supreme national interest", an unnamed close aide of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who advises him on foreign policy, was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.

"It may sound cliched but we mean it," the aide said.

Referring to relations with India, the aide said two-time former premier Sharif would pick up from where he left off in 1999, when then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Lahore.

Asked if the PML-N would renegotiate current terms of engagement with the US, including a deal to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the aide said, "we will look into all such arrangements to find out whether they conform to the country's national interest." The PML-N would not seek a "divorce" with the US, he said.

"Our foreign policy will make sure that it protects Pakistan's interest without damaging its relations with other countries, including the US," he added.

The aide recalled that Sharif had enjoyed a good rapport with the US administration in 1998, even after Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests.

He said the PML-N would persuade the US administration to halt drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions.

"We consider such attacks a violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty," he said.

In an interview before the May 11 polls, Sharif said he was confident he would reach an agreement with the US on controversial issues, including drone strikes.

Analysts believe the US troop pull-out from Afghanistan in 2014 will test Sharif's negotiating skills.

"How Pakistan deals with that situation will be a significant challenge which Nawaz has to confront," said analyst Zafarullah Khan.

Sharif, considered close to Saudi Arabia, also faces a big test in ensuring a balance in Islamabad's relations with Tehran.

Saudi Arabia is said to be against Pakistan's plans to import natural gas from Iran. But the outgoing government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party rejected this pressure and went ahead with an agreement just days before its term ended.

The PML-N chief's aide said that though Sharif recognises the fact that Pakistan must look at all means to meet its energy demands, he would review the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project.

"We will have to see whether the initiative was genuine or just a political gimmick by the PPP," he said.

The PML-N would analyse whether the pipeline project is economically viable and "whether it will damage our relations with other countries".


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