ISLAMABAD: The country’s top diplomat said on Wednesday that Pakistan needed a major shift in ties with Afghanistan, Iran and India to achieve the goal of a peaceful region.
Speaking at the concluding session of a two-day seminar on “Crossroads Asia: Dynamics of Peace and Progress” at the National Defence University, Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz said: “The vision of a peaceful neighbourhood cannot be realised without a qualitative transformation in our relations with Afghanistan, India and Iran.”
He said building a peaceful neighbourhood was the cornerstone of foreign policy of the PML-N government which wanted to focus on the agenda of economic development.
He spoke about intricate challenges faced by the region, including terrorism (particularly the rise of the Islamic State militant group), climate change, economic interdependence and regional and global integration, and called for settlement of regional disputes through “dialogue and political accommodation”.
He made a special mention of Pakistan’s challenging ties with three immediate neighbours — Afghanistan, Iran and India.
Pakistan’s relations with Iran, he noted, had begun to improve. Moreover, developments in Afghanistan — political and security transition — and improvements in socio-economic indicators have been promising.
Mr Aziz called for an end to external interference in Afghanistan, continuous international economic and financial support and avoidance of the mistakes of the past for safeguarding the “precious moment of hope and optimism in Afghanistan”.
He saw rise in insurgent activities, narcotics’ production and trafficking and corruption and governance as the continuing challenges in Afghanistan.
The adviser welcomed China’s increased involvement with Afghanistan both at the bilateral and regional planes and said: “Pakistan views this as a welcome development for peace, security, reconciliation and economic progress of Afghanistan.”
About India, Mr Aziz said, it had “unfortunately not reciprocated our outreach”.
He recapped the negative developments in ties with India since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi in last May, including the cancellation of foreign secretaries’ talks and Indian ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and Working Boundary.
“Indian leadership’s threats of disproportionate use of force portend India’s dangerous desire to create a space for war. This hostile attitude also reveals a clear dichotomy in India’s insistence on eliminating terrorism on the one hand and creating distractions for our armed forces engaged in a relentless and non-discriminatory counter-terrorism operation, Zarb-i-Azb, on the other,” he observed.
He regretted that by hiking its defence spending India was accentuating the conventional asymmetry and seriously impacting regional stability.
Pakistan, the adviser said, would not get involved in arms race in the region, but would staunchly protect its interests, besides maintaining credible deterrence capability.
Further explaining the principles that Islamabad envisioned to follow in a resumed dialogue with India, he said: “Pakistan shall not abandon its political, diplomatic and moral support to Kashmir cause at any cost.”
Pakistan, he underscored, remained committed to a sustained, unconditional and result-oriented dialogue.
Alluding to US’ reinvigorated ties with India, Mr Aziz said: “Pakistan appreciates US interest in South Asia and expects it to play a constructive role for strategic stability and balance in the region by allowing space and resources to focus on the objectives of economic development and poverty reduction and reduce the possibility of a renewed arms race in the sub-continent.”
He called for expansion of Pakistan’s trade and economic links with member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Published in Dawn February 12th , 2015