After passing through a bumpy ride over the last three years, Pakistan-India relations appear to have hit a dead end. However, Islamabad warned on Tuesday that a persisting stalemate in the ties of the two hyphenated neighbours would not benefit anyone.
“Dialogue is a must, and time is running out. A perennial, recurring hiatus is not good for the two nuclear-armed states of South Asia,” said Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. He was delivering a keynote address on security trends in the Asia-Pacific Region at the National Defence University.
Aziz acknowledged that dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve their outstanding issues, including Kashmir, had not made much progress in the past two decades and was now virtually suspended.
“We want to resolve all outstanding issues with India, including Jammu and Kashmir, through dialogue so that we can remove all barriers to bilateral and regional economic cooperation,” he added.
Relations between Pakistan and India have remained tense since Narendra Modi became prime minister despite a promising start when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi last year.
In March, the Indian foreign secretary visited Islamabad as part of his ‘Saarc Yatra’ but still there is no indication as to when New Delhi would be willing to resume the dialogue suspended after the 2009 Mumbai attacks.
India has linked the resumption of talks with successful prosecution of the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai attacks, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who was recently freed by the court.
Aziz said Pakistan was supporting all efforts for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. “We think Asia-Pacific should not become an arena for strategic competition and Byzantine schemes to outstrip each other but a shared space for economic cooperation,” he said. “We think that in international diplomacy we should evolve a new paradigm of peaceful co-existence that benefits all but hurts none.”
According to Aziz, the launch of the Chinese initiative of ‘One Belt, One Road’ – short for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road – was a historic and revolutionary watershed. “This initiative calls on all nations in Asia, Africa and Europe to steer themselves away from confrontation to cooperation, from geo-strategy to geo-economics, and from rival economic blocs to regional and inter-continental connectivity,” Aziz said. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a central plank of this grand, transformative plan.
In pursuit of this policy, the premier’s aide pointed out that Pakistan was not only deepening its ties with China but also reinforcing its bilateral relations with all East Asian nations, including Japan, South Korea and Asean. Speaking on the present situation in neighbouring Afghanistan, Aziz said Kabul was the key to peace and stability in the region. “Our rapport with the Afghan leadership is excellent. Pakistan will play its constructive role in supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, and participate in the reconstruction process,” he added.
Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process
Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry hosted a reception for the member and supporting countries and regional and international organisations of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in the federal capital on Tuesday.
Pakistan is co-chairing the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process along with Afghanistan (permanent co-chair and would host the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Process later this year). Chaudhry highlighted the importance that Pakistan attaches to the common principles and commitments guiding the Istanbul Process.
Afghan Ambassador Janan Mosazai congratulated Pakistan for assuming the co-chairmanship of the Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process for 2015 and expressed hope that the regional initiative would also pave way for strengthened ties at bilateral level. It was established in November 2011 to provide a platform to discuss regional issues, particularly encouraging security, political, and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbours.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2015.
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