‘South Asia to make no real progress until Pakistan, India rivalry prevails’

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ISLAMABAD, Dec 11 (APP):South Asia can make no real progress until rivalry and hatred prevails between Pakistan and India, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said on Tuesday.

Addressing at an international conference ‘Conflict and cooperation in South Asia: Role of major powers’ here, the Foreign Secretary said India’s massive spending on up gradation of its arms and military hardware was undermining the delicate balance and stability of the region in contrast to Pakistan’s efforts towards peace.

“Pakistan does not subscribe to any nuclear and conventional arms race, however will continue to pursue with credible minimum deterrence to maintain strategic stability,” Tehmina Janjua said at the event organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).

The Foreign Secretary said Pakistan attached great importance to SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) with its principle of sovereign equality and had contributed significantly to make it a vehicle of regional peace.

However, she regretted that the SAARC was held hostage by one of its member states – India, which was denying cooperation to Islamabad in hosting of the Summit for last two years.

On Afghanistan conflict, she said the complex scenario was a challenge for major powers in South Asia, particularly with the growing presence of trans-national militant group Daesh.

She said over-reliance on kinetic approach towards the Afghanistan issue had reduced chance of its resolution and stressed political settlement as the most viable option including intra-Afghan dialogue and the formal reconciliation process.

She said strategic partnership with China was growing with an objective of ‘shared future and share prosperity.

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 historic trade links.

He said China under BRI had concluded 100 documents of cooperation and its trade volume with South Asian countries had touched US$ 130 billion till 2017.

Overall, he said China’s trade volume with BRI partners had exceeded US$ 5 trillion with more than a quarter billion jobs created and 80 Special Economic Zones created in last five years.

He said China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was the 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. Also, China contributed US$ 2 billion as Foreign Direct Investment to Pakistan, he added.

About China’s disputes in South Asia, the ambassador said dialogue was the new trend, which China believed, could improve relations between the countries and encourage their development.

Acting President IPRI Mohammad Mehboob Qadir said South Asia due to its geo-strategic location and geo-economic potential, had witnessed contest of major world powers resulting in formation of alliances and coalitions to serve common objectives.

He mentioned the United States’ hazy role in Afghanistan, reemergence of Russia, inability of SAARC to achieve results and gross human rights violations in 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.