Islamabad: Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday vowed to put “Pakistan first” in world affairs but also expressed a desire to improve ties with neighbouring India and Afghanistan.

In his first press conference in Islamabad after his swearing-in, Qureshi offered dialogue to India and Afghanistan to resolve the lingering disputes, saying that “talking peace are the only option”.

Pakistan’s new foreign policy would be reviewed with focus on serving Pakistan’s interest first. “There are pre-conceived notions about where the foreign policy of Pakistan is made. Let me be clear: The foreign policy will be made here at the Foreign Office,” Qureshi asserted.

Inviting former foreign ministers for consultations, Qureshi noted that the PTI government would like to seek advice from opposition parties. He invited Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Hina Rabbani Khar for a meeting before the important session of the UN General Assembly scheduled in September.

Emphasising on the importance of fostering better relations with neighbouring countries, he said: “I will try to bridge the trust deficit between Pakistan and other regional countries.”

Visit to Afghanistan

The foreign minister initiated his media talk with Afghanistan, addressing the people of the neighbouring country and their leader Ashraf Gani. Sharing his intentions to contact his Afghan counterpart to pay a visit to Kabul, he said “I want to bring a solid message to the people of Afghanistan. The two countries share a future and geography, and we have to work together and begin our long journey.” He insisted that bilateral engagement is the best option to find out solution to problems.

‘Need continued, uninterrupted dialogue with India’

Shifting focus to India, Qureshi insisted that dialogue between Pakistan and India is the only way forward for the two countries. Addressing the Indian foreign minister, he said, “We are not just neighbours; we are atomic powers. We know the issues are tough and will not be solved overnight, but we have to engage.” Qureshi said the two countries know Kashmir is an issue. “We need a continued and uninterrupted dialogue. This is our only way forward,” he stressed, adding that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan indicating the beginning of a dialogue.

Pakistan-US ties

On Pakistan-US relations, he remarked, “I am well informed of the priorities of US as I have worked with them in the past. Relations are based on equality and we also have our own priorities.” The Foreign Minister said he will heed to the US concerns and also put before them Pakistan’s perspective. Bilateral relationship, he said, should be improved on the basis of mutual respect and equality.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Regarding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Qureshi said “CPEC is a long-term project, it is a game changer,” he said, adding that his party supported it while in opposition too. He added that the Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing has also been in contact, and there is great stress on infrastructure development. “I would like to discuss the next phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and how to enter into the socioeconomic development for the betterment of our people.”