ISLAMABAD: With Washington growing increasingly wary of the influence exerted by Beijing and Moscow, Islamabad’s recent tacit shift towards its northeastern neighbour’s ‘iron friendship’ embodied by a multi-billion dollar project could, in fact, be pitting it in the centre of another global conflict.
This was suggested by the former foreign secretary and Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry while speaking at a two-day international conference on ‘Global Peace amidst War and Conflict’, which opened on Monday.
Chaudhry said that the world was changing at a rapid pace, pushed by the emergence of some eccentric personalities in the foreign policy theatre and with it, statecraft.
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“Uni-polarity is fading away and we are moving towards a more disorderly world,” he remarked while chairing a session on geopolitics and transforming statecraft.
With the United States terming China and Russia as its major security concern ahead of terrorism, Pakistan’s strong ties with China was ‘a recipe for confrontation’ at some point.
On Afghanistan, the ambassador said talks and dialogues were the only way forward, as espoused in the brief ceasefire during Eidul Fitr.
“A negotiated way out is the only way forward. I do not think there is a military solution to Afghanistan,” he remarked.
Pravin Sawhney, who edits and publishes the Force magazine in India, said that New Delhi was faced with a strategic dilemma between a fading superpower and an emerging one which was right at its doorstep: whether to strengthen its ties with the US by developing naval interoperability or to abide by the April 2018 Wuhan understanding reached with China on regional connectivity and cooperation.
He said India could only become a geostrategic power if it made peace with China and Pakistan, two of its neighbours with whom it has territorial issues.
“I believe the key to India’s rise rests with it making peace with Pakistan. The rest will follow,” Sawnhey added.
He acknowledged that the army and the new government in Pakistan were on the same page in reaching out to India and proposing talks on all issues.
“It is high time both the countries sit across the table to discuss Kashmir,” Sawhney said, noting that Pakistan’s military was matched with India’s, at least at the operational level.
“They were matched before the nuclear tests and remain matched till today,” he said.
To a question, Sawhney said with the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) seeing an influx of hundreds of Chinese into Pakistan for work, the possibility of Chinese casualties arising out of any potential India-Pakistan conflict was a far greater source of deterrence for India today than nuclear weapons.
Marvin Weinbaum, who is a director for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute in the US, said that diplomacy was the prime instrument for resolving global and regional issues such as the Afghan conflict, Kashmir issue, and China-India border dispute.
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“The need for diplomatic efforts is nowhere more pressing than in Afghanistan where instability threatens the entire region,” Weinbaum stressed.
Former ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said the foremost challenge confronting Pakistan was to put its own house in order, sustaining achievements in countering terrorism, and improving the economy.
“Pakistan finds itself adrift in an environment of challenges. We have faced such challenges in the past and I am confident we can meet them now as well,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2018.
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