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The Change of hearts in Pakistan.
Sunrise in Indo-Pak relations?


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The change of hearts in Pakistan

The Islamabad Security Dialogue was organised by the Pakistan government’s National Security Division {NSD} and its advisory board. Inaugurating the dialogue on March 17, Prime Minister Imran Khan had also brought up themes reiterated by Bajwa. “National security is also about non-traditional issues like climate change and food security which threaten Pakistan and its overall security,” Khan had said.

Like almost every other country around the globe, Pakistan’s economy suffered in the year 2020. The GDP growth rate for fiscal year 2019 – 20 was meagre –0.4%, the first time it fell negative in past seven decades. Per capita income fell from US$ 1625 to US$ 1325. Covid – 19 closure and lockdown to limit the spread of the pandemic virus are also contributing to growing unemployment and poverty. With the stringent IMF program halted, the government found the fiscal space to make support payments to mitigate the economic impact of the virus.

Pakistan also received US$ 1.4 Billion from the IMF under its Rapid Financing Instrument scheme, as well as US$ 2 Billion in debt relief and assistance from the G20 and other multilateral institutions. Price of 1 litre of milk is around Rs. 118 and petrol around Rs. 103, the poverty level is pretty high and almost low level of FDI, the condition of common man in Pakistan in nothing to boast about. Keeping that in mind, the army chief started his speech by addressing their guests.

Worthy Guests, Diplomats, Panelists, Participants, Ladies & Gentlemen!

Assalam-o-Alaikum & Good Afternoon!

It is my profound privilege and pleasure to address this august gathering of some of the best Pakistani and global minds. “Together for ideas” is a very appropriate theme chosen by the organisers for this dialogue. I am certain that the policy practitioners and scholars present here or participating virtually, will not only discuss Pakistan’s security vision but also formulate ideas to guide us on how best to tackle Pakistan’s future security challenges.

I would like to appreciate the National Security Division (NSD) for identifying the need for Pakistan to have its own security dialogue. I commend the NSD and its Advisory Board for putting together the first iteration of this Dialogue. I hope this trend of integrating intellectual input into policy-making continues to grow.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is an almost universally acknowledged fact that the contemporary concept of national security is not only about protecting a country from internal and external threats but also providing conducive environment in which aspirations of human security, national progress and development could be realised. Surely, it is not solely a function of armed forces anymore. National security in the age of globalisation, information and connectivity has now become an all – encompassing notion; wherein, besides various elements of national power, global and regional environment also play a profound role. National security is thus multi-layered: outer layers being the exogenous factors of global and regional environment and inner layers being the endogenous factors of internal peace, stability and developmental orientation. A nation at peace and a region in harmony are thus essential prerequisites for attainment of national security in the true spirit. No national leaders of today can ignore these factors. I also firmly believe that no single nation in isolation, can perceive and further its quest for security, as every single issue and security dilemma faced by today’s world is intimately linked with global and regional dynamics. Whether it be human security, extremism, human rights, environmental hazards, economic security or pandemics, responding in silos is no longer an option.

Ladies and gentlemen! The world has seen ravages of World Wars and Cold War, wherein polarisation and neglect of virtues blighted human future and brought catastrophic consequences for humanity. On the contrary, we have witnessed how multilateral rule-based platforms contributed towards good of mankind. Today we face similar choices; whether to stay etched in the acrimony and toxicity of the past, continue promoting conflict and get into another vicious cycle of war, disease and destruction; or to move ahead, bring the dividends of our technological and scientific advancements to our people and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.

We must not forget that the desire to achieve autarky was historically divisive and a stimulus for grabbing more, leading to “haves” and “have nots”. History has taught us that the way ahead has always been through an interconnected, interdependent and collective sense of security, Today the leading drivers of change in the world are demography, economy and technology. However, one issue which remains central to this concept is economic security and cooperation. Frayed relations between various power centres of the globe and boomeranging of competing alliances can bring nothing but another stint of cold war. It is naive to apply the failed solutions of yesteryears to the challenges of today and tomorrow. It is important for the world that the leading global players must reach a stable equilibrium in their relations through convergences instead of divergence.

In this environment, developing countries like Pakistan, today face multi-dimensional challenges, which cannot be navigated single-handedly. A similar situation is confronted by other countries in our region as well, therefore, we all require a multilateral global and regional approach and cooperation to overcome these challenges.

Dear Participants! You are well aware that South Asia is home to one quarter of world’s population. However, despite tremendous human and resource potential, the unsettled disputes are dragging this region back to the swamp of poverty and underdevelopment. It is saddening to know that even today it is among the least integrated regions of the world in terms of trade, infrastructure, water and energy cooperation.

On top of it, despite being one of the most impoverished regions of the world, we end up spending a lot of money on our defence, which naturally comes at the expense of human development. Pakistan has been one of the few countries, which despite the rising security challenges has resisted the temptation of involving itself in an arms race. Our defence expenditures have rather reduced instead of increasing. This is not an easy undertaking especially when you live in a hostile and unstable neighbourhood. But, having said that, let me say profoundly that we are ready to improve our environment by resolving all our outstanding issues with our neighbours through dialogue in a dignified and peaceful manner.

However, it is important to state that, this choice is deliberate and based on rationality and not as a result of any pressure. It is our sincere desire to re-cast Pakistan’s image as a peace-loving nation and a useful member of international community. Our leadership’s vision is Alhamdullilah transformational in this regard. We have learned from the past to evolve and are willing to move ahead towards a new future, however, all this is contingent upon reciprocity.

Ladies and gentlemen! The world knows that we are geo-strategically placed, to be a bridge between civilisation and connecting conduit between the regional economies. We are a nation of significance due to our large and enterprising demography, fertile soil and adequate logistical infrastructure. We intend to leverage our vital geostrategic location for ours own, regional and global benefit. Our robust role in current quest for peace in Afghanistan is proof of our goodwill and understanding of our global and moral obligations. Our close collaboration and crucial support for the peace process has led to the historic agreement between Taliban and US and paved the way for intra-Afghan dialogue.

We will continue to emphasise on a sustained and inclusive peace process for the betterment of people of Afghanistan and regional peace. Moreover, besides offering our all-out support to Afghanistan peace process, we have also undertaken unprecedented steps to enhance Afghanistan’s trade and connectivity by:

Re-energising Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement and also providing access to Afghanistan to export her goods to India;
Improving economic and trade environment along Pak-Afghan border by establishing border markets and development of infrastructure; and
Being part of energy and trade corridors binding Central. South and West Asia through land routes and inviting Afghanistan to be part of CPEC.

Dear Participants! Stable Indo-Pak relation is a key to unlock the untapped potential of South and Central Asia by ensuring connectivity between East and West Asia. This potential however, has forever remained hostage to disputes and issues between two nuclear neighbours. Kashmir dispute is obviously at the head of this problem. It is important to understand that without the resolution of Kashmir dispute through peaceful means, process of sub-continental rapprochement will always remain susceptible to derailment due to politically motivated bellicosity. However, we feel that it is time to bury the past and move forward. But for resumption of peace process or meaningful dialogue, our neighbour will have to create conducive environment, particularly in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

Ladies and gentlemen, today we are a nation with tremendous geo-economic potential. In order to carve a promising future for our people, it is important for us to embark upon a solid economic roadmap, backed up by infrastructural developments and regional integration. Our choices with respect to the same have been clear and explicit. This geo-economic vision is centered around four core pillars:

One: Moving towards a lasting and enduring peace within and outside;

Two: Non-interference of any kind in the internal affairs of our neighbouring and regional countries;

Three: Boosting intra-regional trade and connectivity; and

Four: Bringing sustainable development and prosperity through establishment of investment and economic hubs within the region.

Pakistan has been working towards all four aspects with unity of purpose and synchronisation within the various components of national security. We had realised that unless our own house is in order, nothing good could be expected from outside. Now, after having overpowered the menace of terrorism and tide of extremism, we have begun to work towards sustainable development and improving economic conditions of under-developed areas. Pakistan Army has contributed tremendously towards this national cause by rebuilding and mainstreaming some of the most neglected areas through massive development drives besides ensuring peace and security. Our long campaign against the tide of terrorism and extremism manifests our resolve and national will. We have come a long way and yet we are a bit short of our final objective but we are determined to stay the course.

Dear participants! CPEC has been at the heart of our economic transformation plan and we have left no quarter to declare its necessity for addressing our economic woes. Our sincere efforts to make it inclusive, transparent and attractive for all global and regional players, with the aim of bringing its benefits to everyone.

Let me also emphasise that while CPEC remains central to our vision, only seeing Pakistan through CPEC prism is also misleading. Our immensely vital geostrategic location and a transformed vision make us a country of immense and diverse potential which can very positively contribute to regional development and prosperity. This vision however remains incomplete without a stable and peaceful South Asia. Our efforts for reviving Saarc, therefore, are with the same purpose. Our efforts for peace in Afghanistan, responsible and mature behavior in crisis situation with India manifest our desire to change the narrative of geo-political contestation into geo-economic integration.

While we are doing our bid, a major contribution is to be made by the global players through their cooperation. I am sure that an economically interconnected South Asia is much more suited to them instead of a war-torn, crisis-ridden and destabilised region. We also see hope in the form of incoming US administration which can transform the traditional contestation into a gainful economic win-win for the world in general and the region, in particular, South Asia can be the starting point for regional cooperation. I have firm belief that economic and sustainable human development can guide us into a future, full of peace and prosperity. And finally, it is time that we in South Asia create synergy through connectivity, peaceful co-existence and resource sharing to fight hunger, illiteracy and disease instead of fighting each other.

I thank you.

In my period of understanding Pakistan, I have not seen such a mild and useful speech by any army general of late. A day earlier, Pakistan PM spoke about the climate change, food security in the nation, import of wheat in Pakistan and zero tools to estimate the agriculture crop in Pakistan. He also spoke about the economic security and foreign exchange crisis, which the nation faces as support by the Middle East to Pakistan has evaporated and job market has shrunk in the Middle East due to the notorious Pakistan labour and these countries are preferring Indian, Sri Lankan, Burmese, Bangladeshi and even North Korean labour. Chinese investments are dwindling drastically and USA has stopped supporting its fight against the terror. Indian PM has played its diplomatic maneuvers well and ensured that support of Pakistan is neutralised in Organisation of Islamist Countries – by nations like Maldives, whom India supports as island nation and sends arms, Covid – 19 vaccine, drinking water and even arms training to protect itself.

Pakistan has around 25% citizens living in extreme poverty and another 25% which oscillate between poverty and just above poverty with very little state targeted subsidiary like India, but Pakistan is planning similar subsidy in future. Even USA is giving family oriented gift cheques to get over the pandemic losses.

Pakistan’s economy is in very bad state of distress. Pakistan may have understood that her future lies with India, not china. Early last month – in a hint that sections of the Pakistani establishment were rethinking its India policy – Bajwa had noted that Pakistan wished to “extend the hand of peace in all directions.”

On February 25, India and Pakistan had issued a joint statement recommitting themselves to the informal 2003 ceasefire agreement. Reporting on the development, the Indian press noted that the joint statement was the result of considerable back channel talks between the two countries, conjecturally involving Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Khan’s Special Assistant on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Moeed Yusuf.

Interestingly, as an Indian Express article on Bajwa’s March 18 speech has already noted, the absence of any explicit demand from the Pakistan army chief that India restores the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir (which, in any event, is also something the Modi government has committed to on record) or the restoration of the now federally controlled territory’s autonomous status through Article 370 or 35A of the Indian constitution suggests a considerable softening of Pakistan’s stance on the matter. The newspaper also accurately assessed Bajwa’s omission of Pakistan’s traditional position that the Kashmir dispute be resolved in line with old United Nations Security Council resolution as a significant shift.

Series of steps have already been undertaken. Visas for sportsperson have been granted, chances of high commissioners being reappointed, chances of a meeting between foreign affair ministers at Danube brighten, Indus water talks will restart on 23rd and 24th March, 2021 after a gap of 2 years, chances are that Pakistan may import cotton from India are all welcome steps. In yet another signal that frosty ties between New Delhi and Islamabad are thawing, India could take part in a multi-nation exercise to be hosted by Pakistan later this year at its premier anti-terrorism centre in Pabbi in Nowshera district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The exercise will be held under the aegis of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). If the plan goes through, it would be a historic event, given that it would be the first time that Indian forces will travel to Pakistan for any military exercise. Inspite of all this cricket series is a distant dream!

A game changing diplomatic effort to resolve but requires a new out of box solution!

Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Prakash Saxena is a graduate of UBC, Vancouver, Canada. He is an authority on eCommerce, eProcurement, eSign, DSCs and Internet Security. He has been a Technology Bureaucrat and Thought leader in the Government. He has 8 books and few UN assignments. He wrote IT Policies of Colombia and has implemented projects in Jordan, Rwanda, Nepal and Mauritius. Rajiv writes, speaks, mentors on technology issues in Express Computers, ET, National frontier and TV debates. He worked and guided the following divisions: Computer Aided Design (CAD), UP: MP: Maharashtra and Haryana State Coordinator to setup NICNET in their respective Districts of the State, TradeNIC, wherein a CD containing list of 1,00,000 exporters was cut with a search engine and distributed to all Indian Embassies and High Commissions way back in the year 1997 (It was an initiative between NIC and MEA Trade Division headed by Ms. Sujatha Singh, IFS, India’s Ex Foreign Secretary), Law Commission, Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of Justice, Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), National Jail Project, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Minorities (NCM), National Data Centres (NDC), NIC National Infrastructure, Certifying Authority (CA) to issue Digital Signature Certificates (DSCs), eProcurement, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MPA), Lok Sabha and its Secretariat (LSS) and Rajya Sabha and its Secretariat (RSS) along with their subordinate and attached offices like Directorate of Estate (DoE), Land & Development Office (L&DO), National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), Central Public Works Department (CPWD), National Capital Regional Planning Board (NCRPB), Housing & Urban Development Corporation (HUDO), National Building Organisation (NBO), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), BMPTC and many others.


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