WASHINGTON – Pakistan wants to normalise its relations with India, and is determined not to allow its territory to be used against any neighbouring country, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said Thursday.
At the same time, he said, “We expect the same from neighbours as well.”
“We want to have normal relationship with India. There is a political consensus in Pakistan on this,” the foreign secretary told a gathering at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think-tank.
Noting that India lacks such a political consensus, the foreign secretary said that it is the Indian government which has suspended the Indo-Pak dialogue process.
“Security challenges in South Asia are not unique only to a single country and the solution too cannot be pinned on a single country,” he said. “Terrorist and illicit networks today thrive across regions and cultures. They have a symbiotic relationship, which makes a zero sum view of security untenable for achieving peace.”
“Pakistan is open to dialogue with India. The only solution to move forward is dialogue, the dialogue is suspended because of India,” Chaudhry, who is in Washington for the US-Pak Security, Strategic Stability, and Non-proliferation dialogue, said.
“Our sense of a normalised relationship includes trade normalisation, people-to-people exchanges as these normally exist between countries, bilateral mechanisms for nuclear risk reduction, confidence building and crises management,” Chaudhry said. “We have made consistent overtures to India to start the dialogue process, which could help both the countries embark on a journey for a healthy and normal relationship.”
Responding to a question, Chaudhry said that Indians have said that they would like to have dialogue in an environment free of terrorism. “So do we say that,” he said, adding, “We are ready, when India is ready to talk”.
India had suspended the scheduled foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan in August last year after Pakistani ambassador in New Delhi met Hurriyat leaders on the eve of the dialogue.
The top Pakistani diplomat said that nuclear weapons were a stabilising factor in South Asia, but the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal was a great destabilising factor in the region, he said, and sought integration in the non-proliferation mainstream.
Nuclear weapons in Pakistan, he said, are safe and secure. A lot of investment has been made to ensure that there is no threat to the nuclear weapons and installations, he said.
Pakistan, he said, is fully committed to ensure its territory is not used by terrorists to create instability within the country and in any other country, including its neighbours.
“There has been a paradigm shift in Pakistan in the last one year in this regard. There are no good or bad terrorists, they are only liabilities. As a result we have achieved remarkable success (in fight against terrorism),” the foreign secretary said.
Pakistan, he said, wanted to have a peaceful coexistence with India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a very good meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at his swearing-in ceremony in May last year.
Chaudhry said Pakistan was taking steps to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice, despite the fact it has not received enough evidence in this regard.
Despite the many challenges Pakistan faced over the last two years, he said the government has remained focused in single-mindedly pursuing the multifaceted agenda for revival and reinvigoration of Pakistan.
The growing economic stability and improved internal security situation are the first concrete manifestation of this policy shift. Today Pakistan’s economic upturn is being noted worldwide. “Our budget deficit is at a record low. Tax receipts have risen in response to efforts to broaden the base and cut exemptions. Economic indicators suggest an upswing in economic activity with increased consumer spending, not seen in last many years. Foreign-exchange reserves have more than doubled.
“Already both Moody’s and S&P have improved Pakistan’s credit rating from first negative to stable and now positive. The IMF predicts that Pakistan’s economy will grow by 4.7 per cent next year, the fastest rate in eight years. But we need higher growth rates in the coming years to substantially overcome poverty challenges”
On the internal security front, the foreign secretary said the Zarb-e-Azb operation has been a big success and nearly 90 per cent of the areas have been cleared. ”The core of infamous TTP has been dismantled with its leadership on the run in Afghanistan. Some remaining high profile leaders of Al-Qaeda were killed or captured in the last one year. Operations are now underway to clearing the remaining and geographically most treacherous territory”
On relations with the United States, Chaudhry said they were on a stable and growing trajectory with the US.
“In our view, Pakistan and the US have always benefited when they work together,” he said.
“We are grateful for the US support to Pakistan in broad range of areas.”
Earlier, briefing Washington-based Pakistani media after leading the Pakistani delegation at talks with the United States, he said the US-Pakistan joint statement issued at the end of Strategic Stability and Nuclear non-proliferation talks elaborately acknowledged Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security efforts and export controls.
“In South Asia strategic stability is very important. The United States has a role in this and we think the US was receptive to our point of view,” he said.
Islamabad is entitled to the Nuclear Suppliers Group integration, which should be criteria-based and non-discriminatory, he emphasised.
“As a responsible nuclear power, we deserve to be integrated into the NSG.”
Citing Pakistan’s experience with the nuclear technology, the foreign secretary said during the last decade Pakistan made remarkable strides.
“We are not only a nuclear weapon state but also have a large programme of power generation; we have made uses in medicine and agriculture in close cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
Chaudhry said Pakistan is not a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty because the treaty is discriminatory.
Asked if he raised the issue of Indian involvement in inciting terrorism in Pakistan, the foreign secretary responded that while discussing regional situation, Pakistan presented its point of view.
“We made clear that terrorism is a collective enemy. Therefore, all nations and all countries must work together to defeat this enemy.”
On relations with Afghanistan, he said, since the inception of President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul, Pakistan has developed very good cooperation with its western neighbour on combating cross-border militancy. Pakistan, he said, does not distinguish between good or the bad terrorists. He also referred to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statement in Kabul amid a raging Afghan Taliban insurgency last month, in which the Pakistani leader said the enemies of Afghanistan are not friends of Pakistan.
He ruled out the presence of Daesh or IS in Pakistan.
The US officials expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts and the nation’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorists, he said of a series of meetings Chaudhry had with American officials.