Saturday, October 15, 2022
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Pakistan demarches US envoy over Biden's 'unwarranted' remarks on nuclear programme

Pakistan’s disappointment and concern were conveyed to the US envoy on the unwarranted remarks, Foreign Office says

An outside view of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. — Twitter/File
An outside view of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. — Twitter/File

  • PM Shehbaz terms President Biden's statement "factually incorrect"
  • MOFA says the remarks were not based on ground reality or facts. 
  • Pakistan’s disappointment and concern were conveyed to US envoy.

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Saturday handed a "strong" demarche to US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome following President Joe Biden's "misleading" remarks over Islamabad's nuclear programme.

Acting Foreign Secretary Jauhar Saleem called in the US ambassador to deliver the demarche, the ministry said, adding that Pakistan’s disappointment and concern were conveyed to the US envoy on the unwarranted remarks.

The remarks, a statement from the ministry mentioned, were not based on ground reality or facts. 

The secretary made it clear that Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state and its impeccable stewardship of the nuclear program and adherence to global standards and international best practices was well acknowledged, including by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"It was essential to maintain the positive trajectory of Pakistan-US relations and the close cooperation between the two sides to build regional and global peace," the ministry added.

The development comes after Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly protested against Biden's controversial remarks.

'Factually incorrect and misleading'

The prime minister, in a statement earlier today, said: "Pakistan rejects the remarks reportedly made by the US President, which are factually incorrect and misleading." 

PM Shehbaz said over the past decades, Pakistan has proven to be the most responsible nuclear state, wherein its nuclear programme is managed through a technically sound and foolproof command and control system.

He added that Pakistan has also consistently demonstrated responsible stewardship of its nuclear-weapons capability, marked by a very strong commitment to global standards, including those of the IAEA on non-proliferation, safety, and security.

The prime minister said that the real threat to international peace and security is posed by ultra-nationalism, violation of human rights in regions that are struggling against illegal occupation, violation of global norms by some states, and repeated nuclear security incidents.

Arms race among leading nuclear weapon states and the introduction of new security constructs that disturb the regional balance also pose a threat to peace, he said.

PM Shehbaz said that Pakistan and the US have a long history of a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship and it was imperative that the ties remain unhindered.

"At a time, when the world is confronted by huge global challenges, it is critically important that genuine and durable efforts are made to recognize the real potential of the Pakistan-US relationship while avoiding unnecessary comments," he said.

The prime minister said that it was Pakistan's sincere desire to cooperate with the US to promote regional peace and security.

'Fully capable of safeguarding nuclear weapons'

Hours before the prime minister's statement, FM Bilawal had confirmed during a press conference in Karachi that Pakistan would summon the US ambassador to the Foreign Office and give him a demarche.

“We are fully capable of safeguarding our nuclear weapons, and they meet every international standard in accordance with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) as far as security and safety is concerned,” Bilawal said.

“Pakistan is adamant about ensuring its integrity and safety. Security questions, if any, should be raised on the nuclear weapons of India that recently fired a missile into Pakistani territory by accident."

FM Bilawal said he had discussed President Biden's statement with PM Shehbaz in detail and hoped this incident would not affect Pakistan-US relations negatively.

“This is not only irresponsible and unsafe but raises serious concerns about the safety of nuclear-capable countries. Biden's remarks came as a surprise. I believe such misunderstandings are a result of a lack of engagement,” the foreign minister said.

On the sensitivity of Biden's remarks, Bilawal, however, added it was not an official function and it wasn’t an address to the parliament or an interview.

“It was a fundraiser. It was an informal conversation in which this sentence was used so it should be [looked at] in this manner, I think we will look at this statement in this way,” he said.

'Nuclear weapons without any cohesion'

Biden had earlier today said Pakistan may be “one of the most dangerous nations in the world” as the country has “nuclear weapons without any cohesion”.

The US president made the comments while addressing a Democratic congressional campaign committee reception on Thursday.

“And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion,” Biden was quoted as saying in a transcript of the address, published on the White House’s website.

Biden’s remarks were made with regard to the changing geopolitical situation globally, as he highlighted that the world was changing rapidly, and countries were rethinking their alliances.

“And the truth of the matter is — I genuinely believe this — that the world is looking to us. Not a joke. Even our enemies are looking to us to figure out how we figure this out, what we do,” he added.

PTI lambastes government

In response to the remarks, PTI Chairman Imran Khan held the incumbent rulers responsible, saying it shows the total failure of the "imported government’s" foreign policy.

Terming the US president’s comments as an “unwarranted conclusion” of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the former premier asked about the information Biden got to make such a statement on the country’s capability, and added: “….having been PM, I know we have one of the most secure nuclear command & control systems”.

“Unlike the US which has been involved in wars across the world, when has Pakistan shown aggression esp post-nuclearisation?” he further asked. “Is this the ‘reset’?”