ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua has reiterated that Pakistan is ready for dialogue with India on all outstanding issues, including the Kashmir dispute, as there can be no real progress in South Asia until rivalry and hatred prevail between the two neighbouring countries.
Addressing an international conference on ‘Conflict and cooperation in South Asia: Role of major powers’ here on Tuesday, the foreign secretary said Prime Minister Imran Khan had already offered to do the necessary for the sake of regional stability, including inviting his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to the negotiating table in his letter.
“India’s massive spending on arms and military hardware is undermining the delicate balance and stability of the region in contrast to Pakistan’s efforts towards peace,” she said, adding that Pakistan did not subscribe to any nuclear and conventional arms race, but would continue to pursue credible minimum deterrence to maintain strategic stability.
Janjua, while speaking at the conference organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), also asserted that Pakistan attached great importance to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) with its principle of sovereign equality and had contributed significantly to making it a vehicle of regional peace. However, she regretted that Saarc was held hostage by one of its member states — India — which had been denying cooperation to Islamabad in hosting its summit for past two years.
“India is also involved in gross human rights violations in occupied Kashmir, which was highlighted in the Human Rights Council report,” she said.
Regarding the Afghan conflict, the foreign secretary said the complex scenario was a challenge for major powers in South Asia, particularly with the growing presence of trans-national militant group Da’ish.
She termed the Islamic State group’s presence in Afghanistan a constant threat to Pakistan, adding that the country and region at large faced serious challenges and resolving the Afghanistan issue was key to long-lasting peace.
“Regional and global powers also realise the need to find a solution to the problem in Afghanistan,” said Janjua, adding that Pakistan supported all negotiations and dialogue between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban.
The foreign secretary also highlighted that the country’s strategic partnership with China was growing with the objective of ‘shared future and share prosperity’. “Pakistan is in contact with all major powers,” she said, terming the relations between Pakistan and China ‘exemplary’.
Janjua stated that economic conditions in the country had improved due to Chinese investment and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “The whole world is now agreeing with the Chinese president’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) vision.”
“PM Imran’s visit has given a new direction to the bilateral relations,” the foreign secretary said.
Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing said China was a natural partner of development in South Asia and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was similar to the ancient Silk Route concept of shared historical trade links.
China under the BRI has concluded 100 documents of cooperation and its trade volume with South Asian countries touched $130 billion till 2017. China’s trade volume with BRI partners had exceeded $ 5 trillion with more than a quarter billion jobs created and 80 Special Economic Zones created in the past five years, he said.
“The CPEC is a major area of cooperation under BRI with its 22 projects and a few early harvest projects already contributing to the development of the two countries,” said the Chinese envoy, adding that Beijing had already contributed $2 billion Foreign Direct Investment in Pakistan.
About China’s disputes in South Asia, the ambassador said dialogue was the new trend, which Beijing believed could improve relations among the countries and encourage their development.
Acting President of IPRI Mohammad Mehboob Qadir said South Asia, due to its geo-strategic location and geo-economic potential, had witnessed contests of major world powers resulting in the formation of alliances and coalitions to serve common objectives.
He mentioned the United States’ hazy role in Afghanistan, re-emergence of Russia, inability of Saarc to achieve results and gross human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir as main challenges for South Asia.
The conference was attended by diplomats, foreign affairs experts and intellectuals from the South Asian countries.