WASHINGTON: Warning of a “real and present threat” to South Asian peace and security, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called on the world to help avert imminent threat of a conflagration between Pakistan and India. “The international community can no longer pretend that it (the threat of armed clash between the two nuclear neighbours) does not exist,” the prime minister said in a speech at a Washington think-tank, underscoring the need to resolve the decades-old Kashmir dispute. “Clearly, there is a real and present threat to peace and security in South Asia,” he spoke to a large audience at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
“It (the international community) must play a role to stop the slide towards a dangerous Pakistan-India crisis by preventing India’s belligerent actions rather than Pakistan’s defensive responses,” PM Nawaz said. “A normal and stable relationship between Pakistan-India can be built by adherence to the principles of the UN Charter, especially the principle of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs, and the right of peoples to self-determination,” he said. “There is no alternative for the two countries, but to resume a comprehensive dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Premier Nawaz, who met with President Barack Obama, also said Pakistan was ready to help Afghanistan revive peace talks with Afghan Taliban. The prime minister referred to his meetings with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, and said the planned National Security Advisers’ of the two countries was scuttled by India’s attempts to limit the talks to a single issue and to dictate the programme of Pakistani NSA in New Delhi. “The cancellation of the NSA-level talks has been followed by increased ceasefire violations by India across the Line of Control (in Kashmir) and the Working Boundary (near Sialkot), as well as a stream of hostile statements by the Indian political and military leadership,” he said. Meanwhile, Nawaz said, “Anti-Pakistan actions by Hindu extremists are exacerbating the present tensions in our region.”
Referring to his new peace initiative that he outlined in his last month’s address to the UN General Assembly, the prime minister said India’s response was not positive. “While refusing dialogue, India is engaged in a major arms buildup, regrettably with the active assistance of several powers,” he said, adding that Pakistan would be compelled to take several countermeasures to preserve credible deterrence to some dangerous military doctrines adopted by India. The prime minister did not name the powers he blames for arming India, but Delhi is overhauling and modernising its armed forces with the help of several partners. Last month, for example, it signed a $3 billion deal with US engineering giant Boeing for Apache attack helicopters and Chinook transports.
On Afghanistan, he said there are two paths to peace – a military victory over the insurgents or a negotiated peace and national reconciliation. “Over the past 14 years, a military solution has been elusive,” he said. “We believe that it is unlikely to be achieved in the future. Thus, achieving peace through negotiations is the best option.” Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif said, had no reason to want any violence in Afghanistan. “The attacks on the Afghan government, and indeed on Pakistan, emanate from the vast areas in Afghanistan now under Taliban control,” he said.
Pakistan’s priority was to defeat the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), which has also found bases on Afghan territory. “Peace within Afghanistan will enable Pakistan to eliminate the TTP threat.” He said he had conveyed to President Ghani that, if he desires, Pakistan was prepared to assist in reviving the talks between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban. “But we cannot bring them to the table and be asked to kill them at the same time,” he said. Pakistan’s military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014, the largest anywhere in the world, had produced remarkable results. Terrorists’ sanctuaries, command and control and infrastructure have been destroyed, he said, adding thousands have been killed or captured. “The rest are on the run. As the operation goes into its final phase, their few remaining hideouts will be cleared,” he declared.
Simultaneously, he said through well-coordinated, intelligence-based law enforcement operations across Pakistan, the government has launched a focused campaign against terrorist sleeper cells, their supporters, sympathisers and financiers. “This significant improvement in the security situation could not have been possible without the resolve of the people, parliamentary consensus and the dedication and sacrifice of our security forces, all of whom came together to counter and confront this menace,” he said.
“The bravery of 14 year old Aitzaz Hasan of Hangu, who sacrificed his life to save his fellow students, and the extraordinary tenacity of Malala Yousafzai has inspired the entire nation to rise against this scourge. Hundreds of such stories of heroism have been written in blood and tears. “And the blood that has been shed has only strengthened our national resolve to fight until the last terrorist is eliminated.” Reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to the objectives of non-proliferation and disarmament, the prime minister said a number of national measures have been adopted to strengthen export controls and security.
To fulfill its vast energy needs, he said, Pakistan will install several civil nuclear power plants, under IAEA safeguards. “We look forward to international cooperation in this context. As a responsible nuclear power, and one with the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy, it would be mutually beneficial for Pakistan to be accepted as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other export control regimes.”
World Warned of Pak-India Clash