South Asia needs peace, not confrontation
The Lahore Center for Peace Research(LCPR) organized its inaugural event on Monday, 11th December in the form of a roundtable discussion on” Regional Security Environment and Pakistan” with the participation of a select group of the country’s top-notch diplomats, including Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, currently Chairman of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI) who was the keynote speaker. The session was chaired by Pakistan’s Former Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan who heads the LCPR.
Bringing their vast experience of diplomacy and world politics into play, the former ambassadors analyzed the happenings in the region and beyond. The simmering Afghan quagmire; the growing Sino-US Great Game in the region and India’s quest for regional hegemony were discussed. The ace diplomats were in agreement that with growing Indo-US nexus, no other region in the world today was as volatile and unstable as South Asia. Given its troubled history, this region needs peace, not conflict or confrontation.
“Washington’s engagement in this region should have been aimed at promoting strategic balance rather than disturbing it. It should have been geared towards developing a sense of security and justice in this region by eschewing discriminatory policies in dealings with India and Pakistan nuclear equation, the only one in the world that grew up in history totally unrelated to the Cold War. But this never happened” they noted.
The participants stressed that the geopolitical developments in the region, including growing imbalances of power as a result of country-specific nuclear and military deals were not only aggravating the security situation in the region but also undermining the prospects of peace between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. This situation is not without serious implications for the delicate balance of power and stability in this region. The participants agreed that with elections coming up in both countries, it was difficult to foresee a thaw in their relations.
Taking cognizance of the power imbalance in the region, the former envoys contended that Pakistan must focus on mustering more national power so that it can take full advantage of its pivotal geopolitical location. The eminent group was clear in stating that Pakistan must convert its geopolitical location into an asset rather than letting it remain a liability. In doing so, what is most important is not what it is required to do for others’ sake but what it ought to be doing in its own interests.
Mindful of the country’s limitations, the top foreign policy practitioners warned against devising short-sighted and hawkish policies. The ambassadors asserted that Pakistan must tread carefully and guard its interests without trying to pull the plug on anyone. Special emphasis was laid on the need to paper over differences with Iran in order to foster better relations between the two countries. They acknowledged that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) linking Pakistan’s coastal areas with northwest China, on completion, will bring overarching economic and trade connectivity that would be of great benefit to the region.
Concluding the discussion, Chairman of LCPR, Shamshad Ahmed Khan said that the regional security dynamics are a corollary of the global environment, which today is marked by challenges of diplomacy mixed with constant power struggle, invasions in the name of self-defense, military occupations, economic adventurism, and discriminatory nuclear security order. In the given scenario, Islamabad has its work cut out, and it must tread along well as a respected and reasonably-sized power in the comity of nations.
“Pakistan needs to focus on internal cohesion, economic development and strong domestic leadership,” he said. This requires concerted and determined efforts also in combating the scourge of terrorism. Having an independent foreign policy in place and an apparatus for tackling prickly issues in the region should be one of the top priorities for Pakistan.
The participants appreciated the LCPR’s resolve to serve as a catalyst in changing world’s perception of Pakistan which surely has many reasons and assets other than terrorism and violence to be recognised as a responsible member of the international community.”