Dáil Éireann - Volume 663 - 09 October, 2008
Written Answers. - Foreign Policy Issues.
Deputy Joe Costello Deputy Joe Costello
Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the programme in foreign policy terms of the new President of Pakistan taking office; his views on the departure of the previous incumbent in that post; if contact has been made with the office of the new President; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34193/08]
Deputy Micheál Martin Deputy Micheál Martin
Deputy Micheál Martin: President Zardari faces significant political and security challenges. In addition, Pakistan is experiencing severe problems with the economy and serious, endemic, governance issues.
As regards Afghanistan, the new President has got off to a promising start. I very much welcome the invitation he extended to President Karzai of Afghanistan to attend his swearing-in ceremony in Islamabad on 9 September. I welcome also the recent meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan, at which ways and means of strengthening bilateral relations were discussed and at which the two Ministers reiterated their resolve jointly to fight extremist elements along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Strengthening relations with India is another priority for President Zardari. Under President Musharraf, there had already been some positive developments in India-Pakistan relations, and the new President has demonstrated a renewed willingness to build up trust and to improve common understanding with India. A meeting between President Zardari and Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, took place recently in New York. The leaders pledged to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries, including the dispute over Kashmir, and to bring lasting peace to the region.
Further afield, Pakistan’s relationship with the US is of crucial strategic importance to both countries. President Zardari has already made very clear commitments to fighting terrorism and militancy forcefully and effectively.
Where Europe is concerned, Pakistan has also placed a renewed emphasis on the importance of strengthening EU-Pakistan relations. A number of high-level EU-Pakistan meetings will  take place shortly which will provide an opportunity for further discussions on the development of this relationship.
Regarding the departure of President Musharraf, I respect the outcome of the internal democratic process in Pakistan. President Musharraf’s legacy is a somewhat mixed one, but he must be credited with agreeing to hold democratic elections in January and to return the country to civilian rule. It is encouraging that his departure and the transfer of power to President Zardari’s new administration was smooth, peaceful and in accordance with the Constitution.
Messages of congratulation have been sent to President Zardari. I also availed of the opportunity to meet the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr Shah Mahood Qureshi, in New York on 26 September. In addition to discussing regional and international issues, we agreed that we should work to develop a framework of bilateral cooperation, so that relations with Ireland can be expanded, in areas including private sector investment, educational exchange and trade.
Dáil Éireann 663 Written Answers. Foreign Policy Issues.