ISLAMABAD: Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said that Pakistan was ready to play its part for positive and productive partnership with the European Union as enormous potential existed in areas of trade, climate change and digitization. In his virtual address to the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, he said that the Pak-EU strategic engagement plan signed in June 2019 had ushered in a new phase in relationship. He mentioned that the Pak-EU relationship had provided a solid foundation and framework for cooperation in multiple domains. He explained these domains as political and defence, trade and investment, promotion of democracy, rule of law, good governance and human rights, migration and mobility, sustainable development, education and culture and science and technology. He expressed satisfaction that these relationship was moving steadily in a positive direction in all spheres of cooperation. He also expressed commitment to remain engaged to further expand multidimensional partnership. He said that the European Union was a traditional friend and a major economic partner of Pakistan with their cooperation based on shared values of democracy, pluralism, mutual understanding and respect. He lauded the EU’s efforts and contributions to fight COVID-19 pandemic. Qureshi said that trade was an important aspect of Pakistan-EU multi-faceted relationship. While the GSP Plus has supported exports, “we have introduced reforms to attract foreign direct investment to maximally utilize this facility,” he said. He said that Pakistan offered an open and deregulated market with 100 percent equity ownership and repatriation of capital and dividends. Over the last five years, he said that Pakistan’s IT exports had increased by 151 percent and offered the European Union to benefit from the country’s human resource in the IT sector to realize its goals of digitization. He expressed disappointed at the adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament on blasphemy laws in Pakistan. He said that the resolution reflected a lack of understanding of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan and in the wider Muslim world. “We need to appreciate religious sentiments attached to the personality of Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and other religious symbols,” he stressed. He said that the government had firmly moved against the radical groups after the recent protests and assured that no armed pressure group was being allowed to challenge the writ of the state and dictate the government policies. He said that Pakistan believed in the policy of restraint and peaceful coexistence and was well poised to assume an even greater role as a responsible and responsive member in the comity of nations. “We want to anchor our international engagement in economic cooperation and the inextricable link between peace and development. Our focus is shifting from geo-politics to geo-economics,” he said. As an emerging market of 220 million people, 60 percent of whom are below the age of 30 years, Pakistan offers a multitude of opportunities for trade and investment, he added. He said that anchored in economic security, Pakistan was focused on connectivity by promoting trade, transit and energy flows among Central and South Asia and Middle East, providing economic bases as a development strategy and peace within our borders and beyond. He said that peace and stability in Afghanistan was paramount in realizing the government’s vision of regional economic integration and trans-regional connectivity. Qureshi said that Pakistan had long maintained that there was no military solution in Afghanistan. “We remain committed to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.” He said that Pakistan had consistently supported the peace process and the facilitation culminated in the US-Taliban peace agreement and subsequent commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations. He warned that continued violence following withdrawal of the US and NATO forces could potentially lead to rise in drugs production and exodus of Afghans from their country. He said that Pakistan stands as a gatekeeper in stemming the flow of illegal migrants and narcotics from Afghanistan. He said Pakistan remained firmly committed to improving relations with all its neighbours, including India, however regretted that the overtures for peace were not reciprocated by India. “Instead, it unilaterally and illegally moved to change the status of Jammu Kashmir – a UN recognized disputed territory, and vitiated the environment for dialogue. The onus is now on India to create an enabling environment,” he said. The foreign minister said that the Jammu Kashmir issue was indeed the single biggest obstacle in the way of building a durable and lasting peace in South Asia. He said that a solution in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people was indispensable. He mentioned that the region’s strategic stability was threatened by the growing conventional asymmetry between Pakistan and India. He recalled that EU DisInfo Lab unearthed India’s nefarious activities and urged the EU authorities to take notice of this massive misinformation campaign against Pakistan and not let third countries misuse the name of EU institutions.