Pakistan cannot remain aloof from strategic balance: Aziz

WEB DESK : Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday dubbed the India’s failed attempt to isolate Pakistan as a myopic thinking and a futile attempt to deprive the people of the region of greater economic integration.

Inaugurating a two-day international conference on “Strengthening Peace and Cooperation in South Asia: Incentives and Constraints”, organised by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in collaboration with Hanns Seidel Foundation, Aziz said that Pakistan cannot remain aloof to the imbalance of strategic stability created in the region due to the lopsided western policies.

“We have always supported efforts to maintain strategic balance in the region and exercised strategic restraint. Pakistan will continue to ensure that this strategic balance is maintained”, he told the conference, which is being attended by delegates from Nepal, China, Afghanistan, France and Sri Lanka.

Referring to the ways and means to establish peace and cooperation in South Asia, Sartaj Aziz pointed out that the region is facing multidimensional threats warranting multi-pronged strategies. With all the ingredients for sustained conflict already in place, he stated that South Asia becomes an exceptional case where internal conflict and violence among States over resources can easily spill over, threatening regional peace and stability.

He said that the political conflicts in South Asia are equally important that emanate from longstanding, unresolved disputes, adding it is a well-known fact that peace has remained elusive and alien to this region as a result of these conflicts. Regretting the India’s efforts of sabotaging the 19th SAARC Summit, he said that the only regional organisation has fallen prey to the hegemonic designs of one of the countries in the region, ignoring the important lesson of history that in all successful experiments of regional cooperation like the EU and ASEAN, the bigger countries avoided hegemonic temptations.

He said that Pakistan believes that SAARC has the potential to promote peace, development and stability in South Asia, which requires positive engagement from all the member countries.

He stated that in scuttling the SAARC summit, India has damaged SAARC and not Pakistan. He expressed apprehension that India continues to pressure Pakistan by sponsoring terrorism inside the country to foment separatism. He added that India has increased ceasefire violations on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir to constrain Pakistan Army’s ability to deploy more resources on the western borders with Afghanistan.

“Regrettably, India is also openly opposing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for no apparent reason than to obstruct the economic development of Pakistan,” he said, adding Pakistan is exercising maximum restraint in the face of the region’s growing geo-strategic imbalance and the international community should pay attention and adopt a balanced approach rather than taking sides.

He also stated that India was involved in terrorist activities to create unrest in tribal areas, Karachi and Balochistan, especially to disrupt the CPEC. Referring to Pakistan’s quest to join Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), he asserted that the NSG should adopt a non-discriminatory criteria-based approach for NSG membership of countries which have never been party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

He also highlighted the brutalities in Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir against innocent and defenceless civilians, who are peacefully protesting and struggling for the realisation of their right to self-determination.

He said that India is under the delusion that Kashmiri uprising is terrorism. Riding on this denial and delusions, it holds Pakistan responsible for the crisis in Indian-Occupied Kashmir and continues to perpetrate grave human rights violations, he added.

For peace in Kashmir, he added, India should face the ground realities and recognise indigenous nature of the Kashmiri movement for the right to self-determination. ‘Pakistan will continue to seek normalisation of relations with India because as a responsible state, we realise the imperative of strategic stability and need for credible minimum deterrence,” he emphasised.

However, he pointed out that India is deliberately heightening tension on the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary by using heavy weaponry on civilian population. He further said that the Indian arms race is also a threat to regional peace and stability.

Former Ambassador Sohail Amin, while speaking, pointed out that there is a clear distinction between states; some are enhancing their power for dominance and others are making their contributions to meet the challenges of peace, prosperity and environmental protection. He said that the postponement of the SAARC summit due to Indian attitude will have a direct bearing on peace and prosperity in South Asia.

Dayani Panagoda, Policy Specialist at German Development Cooperation (GIZ), Colombo, stated that with China emerging as a trading giant and the economic rise of India, North Korea and Japan, the global economy is shifting its center of gravity from the West to Asia.

According to her, while the world is yet to experience the ideological shifts of global power blocks after the new president enters the White House and the Russian alignment with them, the strategic importance of South Asia has become more relevant, especially with the development of new infrastructure facilities in sea routes and the silk route project in the Indian Ocean.

Dr Moonis Ahmar, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences and Meritorious Professor at the University of Karachi, identified several major challenges which will shape things in South Asia once the process of peace and cooperation is unleashed. He pointed out that economic dividends of peace will substantially improve the quality of life of more than one billion people in terms of better education, health, housing and transport facilities.

Discussing the ‘Dividends of Energy Cooperation in South Asia,’ Brigadier General (Retd) Dharma Bahadur Baniya from Nepal said that South Asia is going through a phase of economic transformation from low to high growth, but persistent shortage of energy has been a major factor in restricting the region’s rapid upward trajectory.

Inamul Haq said that incentives for peace should be the region’s main drivers towards sustainable development since issues like climate change, poverty, water stress and population explosion are foreboding transnational concerns which will overtake security concerns if they are not resolved, collectively.

Syed Mohammad Ali from the Centre for International Strategic Studies, speaking on strategic stability and arms control in SA, stated that political, economic and technological factors are exacerbating the challenges to strategic stability in region.

He said that the growing disparity in the land, air, sea, space, strategic and non-kinetic domains between India and Pakistan is a consequence of these geopolitical, geo-economic and technological factors.

Dr Huang Ying, Associate Researcher from the Institute of World Economic Relations, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), Beijing, China, discussed ‘Opportunities for Enhancing FDI in South Asia through OBOR and AIIB projects.’

Professor Khalida Ghaus, MD Social Policy and Development Centre, Karachi, emphasised the importance of human security and socio-economic development, adding social sector is the most neglected sector in the whole region, which further adds to the challenges of poverty, malnourishment, unemployment, economic interdependence, regional connectivity.

Source : Business Recorder