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Ishaq Dar appointed as Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister

Ishaq Dar, a four-time former finance minister, has been appointed as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, as the new government settled in to tackle myriad problems at the domestic and external fronts, including its relations with India and other neighbours.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday, March 11, 2024, inducted 19 members into his Cabinet, ending the tenuous wait for the completion of government formation in the cash-strapped country.

Mr. Dar, an ethnic Kashmiri and chartered accountant by training, is a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). He is also a confidant of the party head and former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif.

With little experience in managing foreign affairs, he has been given the important portfolio when Pakistan’s ties with its neighbour India as well as Afghanistan are at their lowest ebb.

The two sides broke off trade ties and lowered diplomatic presence in each other’s capital in August 2019 after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.

Pakistan has suffered due to a hiatus in trade as it used to import several items and raw materials at cheaper rates from India.

Mr. Dar, as an economic guru, favoured economic relations with the arch-rival but it was not possible due to the Kashmir issue.

Mr. Dar’s position on Kashmir, which is the chief stumbling block in ties between Pakistan and India, should not be different from the general narrative of Pakistan that it should be solved according to the resolutions of the UN Security Council.

In a tweet on February 5, the Kashmir Solidarity Day, this year, Mr. Dar said Pakistan was “committed to its unwavering political, moral and diplomatic support to the just struggle of our Kashmiri brethren for their right of self-determination, as enshrined in the United Nations (UN) Charter and relevant UN resolutions.” I

India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country. New Delhi has told Islamabad that it desires normal neighbourly relations with it in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.

This stand was reiterated by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on March 11, 2024 in New Delhi.

“We have never closed our doors to talking to Pakistan … but the terrorism issue should be fair, square at the centre of the conversation. It is the major issue … I am not saying there are no other issues. But I am not going to duck that issue for the sake of talking,” he said.

Mr. Dar, being an economist, should also be aware of the pitfalls of continuous antagonism with India which is the world’s fifth-largest economy.

However, any change in ties with India should come from the powerful establishment of the country.

Meanwhile, the Information Ministry in a statement elaborated on the various portfolios assigned to other Ministers.

Khawaja Muhammad Asif was appointed as minister for defence, defence production and aviation, Ahsan Iqbal as minister for planning, development and special initiatives, Azam Nazeer Tarar law and justice, human rights, Attaullah Tarar as minister of information and broadcasting, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh as minister for maritime affairs and Muhammad Aurangzeb as Minister of Finance, Revenue.

Shaza Fatima Khawaja, the only woman Minister, was appointed as Minister of State.

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