Pakistan Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif's Opening Statement at National Press Club

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Pakistan Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif's Opening Statement at National Press Club

Following is an abridged version of the opening statement of Pakistan's Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif at the National Press Club on Dec. 3, the final full day of his visit to the U.S. national capital:

This is the 51st year of Pakistan's independence. In the half-century since its birth, Pakistan has been witness to regional upheavals and conflict, global tensions and internal changes. As the Cold War started to unfold, Pakistan and the U.S. forged an immediate partnership. During the Cold War years of hope and despair, our two countries worked together in defense of freedom and liberty. We prevailed.

Despite ups and downs, the Pakistan-U.S. relationship has remained fundamentally strong. We have had a phase of difficult years which must now come to an end in keeping with the new realities. We need to rebuild our partnership on the basis of sovereign equality and mutuality of benefit. Our common commitment to peace, democracy, human rights, free markets and combating terrorism, extremism and narcotics, provides a solid basis for this partnership. Pakistan, located as it is at the critical geo-strategic and cultural crossroads, is a pillar of strength in the Central, South and West Asian regions. A strong and stable Pakistan is indeed in the interest of the whole free world...

Democracy has struck roots deep in the soil of Pakistan. Nothing will be allowed to reverse this. Constitutional measures have already been taken to stabilize democracy. The rule of law has been strengthened. The economy has been restructured...We are determined to forge ahead with our national agenda of growth and good governance reinforced by social and political stability. Pakistan today represents a modern, progressive and forward-looking society...

Our primary concern for the immediate future is the revival of the economy. We have taken up with renewed vigor the agenda of deregulation, liberalization and privatization. Wide-ranging reforms and policy measures have been introduced. We are confident that these measures will increase productivity and promote our objective of self-reliance.

My vision of the future is that sustained economic growth must be accompanied by social welfare...A nation's strength lies in its people and institutions. Its ability to develop and prosper is conditioned by the geopolitical ambience in which it functions. A menacing and destabilizing environment impedes progress. Peace promotes prosperity.

The quest for regional stability is our major foreign policy endeavor. This received a severe setback in May of this year when India carried out its nuclear tests. We faced a new and perilous situation.

India not only threatened our security through nuclear blackmail but also posed the gravest challenge to date to regional peace and stability. We were left with no option but to respond to India's nuclear tests. Our tests not only established deterrence but also restored strategic balance. By averting a military misadventure by India against Pakistan, they served the interest of peace and stability in South Asia.

It should be obvious that our reaction to India's nuclear tests was purely an act of self-defense. This is the legitimate fight of all countries. For us, it was a question of life and existence. The international community remained obsessed with the non-proliferation regimes. There was no consideration for our security concerns. Yet sanctions were imposed on us. We did not violate any international norm. The sanctions were, therefore, unjust and unwarranted.

Coercive diplomacy is immoral. It serves no purpose. We have been living under sanctions for a long time. These sanctions impaired our conventional capability. At the same time, our neighbor was assisted in building up its massive nuclear, ballistic and conventional arsenals. We were, therefore, left with no alternative but to develop our own nuclear deterrent capability. …