President Mamnoon Hussain’s Speech: PIIA’s South Asia Peace Conference 2017

Mr. Mamnoon Hussain, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Address to the “Conference on Peace in South Asia” (Karachi: November 15, 2017). “Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Raheem”. Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production, Excellencies, Experts in International Relations—and Respected Ladies and Gentlemen! Assalam-o-Alaikum.

It is a matter of great pleasure for me to participate in this conference on peace in South Asia under the auspices of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). The foundation of this institution was laid by Quaid-e-Millat Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan had a very real and deep understanding of contemporary foreign policy issues, especially about peace, stability and progress in South Asia. I still believe that best results can be achieved by following the principles enunciated by Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and other founding fathers of Pakistan in our quest for regional peace and security. It is encouraging to see deliberation on such matters in the face of modern day challenges and changes in the regional and global landscape, for which I congratulate PIIA and its team.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

South Asia is home to more than 1.7 billion people, representing 21 per cent of the world population. Peace however, has remained hostage to various historical and geographical factors and unresolved political and territorial disputes. Today, South Asia is a region deeply mired in conflicts and crises. Over the decades, global geopolitical developments, such as the Cold War, Afghan war and War on Terror have profoundly impacted the region’s political, socio-economic and security environment. Also, as we all know, the strategic environment in South Asia underwent a paradigm shift when India and Pakistan became nuclear powers. Since then, security in South Asia has been characterized by a complex interplay of various factors, operating mainly at three levels i.e. domestic, regional or bilateral, and global.

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Ladies and Gentlemen!

The unresolved conflicts like those of Jammu & Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen etc have been major obstacles in achieving peace in the region. Also, after 9/11, political turmoil in Afghanistan has given rise to multifaceted security issues in the region. Of all these disputes, the Jammu & Kashmir dispute remains the flash-point of tension in South Asia thereby making peace in the region all the more fragile. The Kashmiri struggle cannot be designated as a terrorist movement, as India has sought to portray it. On the contrary, the Kashmiris are engaged in a legitimate struggle to exercise their due right of self-determination, as guaranteed by UN Security Council resolutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Recent U.S. policy to prop up India as a hegemon in the region is likely to result in detrimental consequences for the region. India’s on-going military modernization poses a serious challenge to regional strategic stability. This could lead to undesirable arms race between two neighbors at the cost of economic and social progress of their respective countries and of the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Throughout South Asia, the search for prosperity and peace are too often overshadowed by the specter of war and war can be evaded only through regional cooperation and through settling long standing disputes. The destiny of South Asian nations is linked and together they can fight the battle against poverty, unemployment, climate change and militancy and the problems faced by the people. Deep rooted poverty and social backwardness provide a fertile ground for the growth of extremism and radicalization. With transnational threats on the surge, South Asian neighbors should actively support each other to alleviate poverty and improve social conditions of their people.

The lack of access to basic amenities of life increases the possibility of internal conflicts thereby rendering regional states vulnerable to ethnic and sectarian violence. Peace building efforts, economic cooperation and human security are the least focused areas in South Asia and regional peace has remained hostage to the unresolved disputes. This is the main reason why SAARC also failed to emerge as a unifying multilateral organization.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Peace and cooperation are two inter linked phenomena. SAARC, if made effective can ensure both. It needs to emerge as a force of regional connectivity and economic integration by fostering people to people contacts, discouraging expressions of hostility and enmity between regional states, and liberalizing visa requirements especially for business purposes. An environment of peace and cooperation in the region would offer to the region multifaceted opportunities and incentives such as faster economic growth, poverty alleviation, and increase in employment level, economic interdependence, infrastructure development, energy cooperation and regional connectivity. High levels of complementarity in the energy sectors with varying comparative advantages are a major incentive for strengthening peace and cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

China’s growing interest and investment in the region provides a significant incentive to South Asian countries to draw maximum benefits from various Chinese initiatives relating to regional connectivity and infrastructure development such as One Belt and One Road (OBOR), CPEC and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Peace and cooperation will create a conducive environment necessary to attract large volumes of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from multiple sources. FDI, presently is very low in case of South Asia when compared to the other regions.

Along with economic integration and regional connectivity, utmost importance should be attached to stabilizing Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan could become an ‘Asian transit hub’, connecting Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia. Therefore, concerted efforts are required by regional and global stakeholders to defeat the forces of radicalism. Afghanistan needs persistent support from the international community to attain peace and stability.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

As a region, the countries of South Asia need to strive for building sustainable regional architectures on the pattern of SCO and ASEAN. Bilateral rivalries and conflicts should be resolved through dialogue and political processes rather than through instruments of coercion and force. In addition to SAARC, now Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in particular provides enormous opportunities for the regional integration.

Lastly, Pakistan believes that nature of security issues in South Asia requires focusing on institution building and establishment of processes for promoting regional cooperation. All regional states must come forward and work towards regional peace and common security. Security issues such as human and narcotic trafficking, arms proliferation, piracy and terrorism must be tackled through cooperation, information sharing, resolution of decades old disputes and developing a common understanding on these issues.

May Allah protect us all, Amen!

Pakistan Paindabad

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