Following is the full text of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s address to the Political and Security Committee of the European Union (EU) in Brussels on June 25, 2019;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be here at this important forum and share Pakistan’s perspective on Regional Security.
Since this Committee has a significant role in shaping the Union’s Foreign, Security and Defense strategies, I hope that today’s interaction will enable you to further understand the political and security dynamics of the South Asian Region. I will be happy to respond to any questions that you may have after the conclusion of my remarks.
But before I formally begin my discourse on the topic, let me state that Pakistan highly values its relationship with the European Union and its member states.
The EU is a traditional ally and a major economic partner for Pakistan. Our cooperation is based on shared values of democracy, pluralism, mutual understanding and respect. We are satisfied that our relationship is moving steadily in a positive direction, in all spheres of cooperation.
As you all are well aware, this day marks an important event in Pakistan-EU relations, as High Representative Federica Mogherini and I would be signing the Strategic Engagement Plan. The SEP will usher in a qualitatively new phase in our relationship, and further deepen this partnership through an all-encompassing framework of cooperation.
Collaboration in the sphere of peace and security, through a structured Security Dialogue, is an essential pillar of this plan. Although discussions in this area are not new, the envisaged new format, which will be built upon our previous engagements, would help the two sides engage in a more comprehensive manner.
Our two sides also maintain high level military-to-military contacts. Pakistan-EU Staff Talks provide the framework for this engagement; and enable both sides to understand respective threat perceptions, challenges and regional security dimensions. The Third Round of these talks has commenced here in Brussels this morning.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world is witnessing seismic shifts. Multilateralism, rules-based international cooperation and respect for international law, is under threat. Yesterday’s entrenched norms are today’s tenuous truths.
The geo-political fault-lines are not only reviving but are getting deeper; strategic stability is threatened in almost all regions; mutual trust and respect among states is eroding; existing conflicts are getting complex and new disputes are emerging; threats from terrorism are ever evolving; challenges emanating from hybrid and cyber threats are reshaping the security paradigm across the world.
The international political and security approaches cannot be divorced from the economic and financial underpinnings. Rather, I would say that geo-economic factors and interests are actually shaping the geo-political and strategic interests in today’s world. Protectionist impulses are growing stronger, undermining the global rules-based trading system.
Within societies, the dynamics are rapidly changing as well. Intolerance and extremism are on the rise; nationalists and right-wing forces are gaining strength; xenophobia and Islamophobia are reinforcing the misplaced notion of clash of civilizations.
All these trends constitute an imminent threat to peace and stability, within and across regions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This brings me to the security situation in South Asian Region, which remains under acute stress due to the region’s peculiar geo-strategic environment. The challenges of poverty, illiteracy and underdevelopment further compound the predicament.
Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world that has successfully turned the tide in the fight against terrorism, albeit at great human and material cost.
The Pakistani nation is determined to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and extremism. Operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasad have achieved remarkable success. Through implementation of the National Action Plan, peace and security has largely returned to our cities and towns.
The recent boom in tourism, both domestic and international, is a testimony of our success. So is the recent reclassification by the UN of Islamabad as a family station.
Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan is well poised to assume an even greater role as a responsible and responsive member of the international community.
Pakistan believes in the policy of peace, restraint and peaceful coexistence. Hence, our regional perspective is guided by the principles of the Father of the Nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who said, “Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.”
The offer of engagement and initiatives for peace with India, our readiness to discuss all matters, including terrorism and Kashmir, and operationalization of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), are manifestations of our foreign policy vision put into practice.
The recent opening of the Kartarpur corridor by our government is yet another milestone in our quest for a peaceful and connected neighborhood.
Pakistan remains firmly committed to improving its relations with all neighbours, including India, on the basis of mutual respect, sovereign equality and mutual benefit.
India has frequently leveled terrorism-related allegations against Pakistan. We have said that Pakistan has no issues in discussing “terrorism” with India, as we have our own serious concerns on the terrorism issue vis-à-vis India.
We have in our custody a serving Indian Naval officer, Commander Kalbhushan Yadav, who has provided the most incriminating evidence by accepting that he, at the instructions of his government, financed, planned and executed acts of terrorism and violence in Pakistan.
In addition, strategic stability in South Asia is threatened by the growing conventional asymmetry between Pakistan and India; pursuit of discriminatory approaches by certain states to supply advanced military hardware and sensitive technologies to India; and adoption of offensive force postures and doctrines by India, which imagine conflict beneath a nuclear threshold. Under these destabilizing circumstances, Pakistan has no option but to maintain a minimum credible deterrence, while aspiring for a Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia.
Furthermore, the concept of India serving as a “Net Security Provider,” “Economic Anchor” or “counter weight to China” seek to offset the strategic balance in South Asia, undermining regional stability. At the same time, enhanced strategic space for India in Afghanistan seriously impacts Pakistan’s security.
The Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains the single biggest obstacle towards building durable peace and stability in South Asia.
Pakistan has been extending its diplomatic, political and moral support to the people of the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, who want to exercise their right to self-determination, guaranteed by the UN Charter and various Security Council Resolutions. India, however, has been suppressing their genuine and indigenous struggle by terming it as “terrorism”, and through brutal use of force, resulting in gross human rights violations.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in his report in June 2018, comprehensively documented the gross and systematic violations of human rights by the Indian security forces in the occupied territory. The report, termed as the voice of the UN by the UN Secretary General, calls for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry under UN auspices to investigate and apportion responsibility.
The Pulwama incident of 14 February 2019 involved a local Kashmiri youth, abused repeatedly at the hands of Indian occupation forces, and maltreated and disillusioned by the incessant highhanded repression.
Pakistan condemned the incident and offered full cooperation if actionable intelligence was made available; but India chose to ratchet up war hysteria, ostensibly under domestic political compulsions.
The violation of our airspace, and subsequent bombing of sovereign Pakistani territory on 26 February, was a blatant violation of UN Charter, norms of inter-state conduct and international law.
In the face of this unacceptable aggression, Pakistan reacted with reason, restraint and resolve.
The world community, once again, acknowledged and applauded Pakistan’s conduct during this crisis. We are grateful to the international community for its positive role in averting a possibly catastrophic situation.
Any confrontation between two nuclear armed states is not only unthinkable, it is simply suicidal. We hope there will be greater wisdom and sagacity in handling these matters. In our considered view, there is no alternative to sustained engagement, structured dialogue, and peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes, including Jammu & Kashmir.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Afghanistan has long suffered at the hands of global power contestations and strategic miscalculations.
After decades of conflict, peace in Afghanistan still remains elusive. The resistance forces still retain the capability to influence the politico-strategic landscape in the country. According to independent reports, the areas under Taliban control or influence have grown further, to almost 70 percent. Da’esh and TTP, with trans-national agendas, are increasingly exploiting security vacuum in north and north-eastern Afghanistan. Civilian and military casualties are mounting. The situation is further aggravated by acute ethnic polarization, fragmented political landscape, limited leadership capacity, corruption, misuse of authority, war economy and ballooning of revenues from narcotics drugs.
Instability in Afghanistan directly impinges upon Pakistan’s security and stability.
For the last 19 years, Pakistan has been providing multi-faceted support to international efforts in Afghanistan. We continue to provide secure Ground and Air Lines of Communication for the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
We have been hosting millions of Afghan Refugees for four decades now. It is the longest protracted refugee presence of modern times. On our part, besides several development projects, we have imparted education to some 50,000 Afghans in our universities and professional colleges.
Our challenge could be well understood in view of the influx of migrants and the rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, which is far more resourceful and had to face the problem for a much shorter timescale.
We look forward to an early and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland. This would also address the issues of “cross border movement” of criminals and other undesirable elements.
We are developing a comprehensive border management system along our western border. The capacity and strength of our Civil Armed Forces deployed, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, is also being significantly enhanced. The government has already started converting the tribal areas on the border into regular districts, to improve governance and increase participation of the local communities in nation-building activities.
With a view to strengthening our bilateral cooperation, we have also jointly operationalized the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). Its progress was recently reviewed by both countries in Islamabad.
Pakistan seeks a closure to the Afghan conflict through a negotiated settlement. We have long maintained that there is “no military solution” in Afghanistan. We remain committed to an “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” peace process in Afghanistan.
We are extending full support to the peace efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan, through its limited role and influence, facilitated direct talks between the US and the Taliban through “authoritative representatives.” We also released Mullah Baradar and other Taliban prisoners to provide impetus to this process.
Pakistan has also intensified diplomatic efforts at all levels to bring synergy to the peace process and overcome deadlocks. Besides regular engagement with our US and Afghan counterparts, I have been meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China and Iran to advance the peace process. I had a detailed and meaningful discussion with High Representative Federica Mogherini during her visit to Islamabad in March.
In our view, there are four key considerations that must not be overlooked while working out a roadmap for the future of Afghanistan:
First, the Afghan conflict is a complex interplay of ethnic and tribal rivalries, war-lords, resistance forces and political factions. All indigenous actors must be brought on-board for a sustained peace process. An inclusive and mutually acceptable power sharing formula would pave the way for the formation of a national coalition government.
Second, apart from international ownership of the peace process, wider regional consensus is also needed. Role of Afghanistan’s neighbours is important in the ongoing peace process. Regional processes, QCG, SCO-Contact Group, Kabul Process, Moscow Format, and the recently initiated Lahore process, are all important to complement peace efforts. Wider acceptability of talks at international, regional and domestic levels, through identification of common grounds, is needed.
Third, without sponsoring any favourites, adopting an apolitical approach to grant maximum participation and representation to the native demographic and ethnic mix of Afghans, in the upcoming political dispensation, is a requirement. We must never lose sight of the history of Afghanistan.
Fourth, given the unfortunate record of previous peace efforts, there is a need to be vigilant about detractors, who would try to undermine the peace efforts. Certain geographically non-contiguous countries have no role, other than of being a spoiler, in the Afghan political settlement.
Pakistan is fully committed to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan that denies space to any terrorist networks; including Al-Qaeda, TTP and Da’esh. As a shared responsibility, Pakistan remains ready along with other stakeholders to do whatever is possible to facilitate the peace process. However, it must be understood that there is a shared responsibility of all concerned.
We recognize EU’s clear and consistent efforts as well as stakes in the Afghan peace process. Its contributions have been significant and multifaceted. In this regard, we welcomed the 5-point offer of assistance made by High Representative Mogherini at the November 2018 Ministerial Conference in Geneva. We hope to maintain close cooperation with the EU in advancing our shared ideals of peace in the region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Pakistan has been pursuing a comprehensive approach to tackle terrorism. The National Action Plan provides the overarching framework in this regard. All elements of national power have been deployed to eliminate this scourge. With the deployment of over 200,000 troops, Pakistan has conducted the largest and most effective counter terrorism campaign in the world.
Our law enforcement agencies and armed forces have demonstrated extreme courage, resolve and professionalism in reversing the tide of terrorism in the country.
With the return of stability in the country, we are now consolidating the hard-earned gains. However, the principal threat from terrorism that Pakistan continues to face is primarily financed, facilitated and orchestrated from abroad.
Pakistan firmly believes in cooperative and partnership-based approaches in countering terrorism. We, therefore, value our cooperation and engagement with the EU in this regard. We envisage that this collaboration will further enhance under the new Security Dialogue established by the Strategic Engagement Plan, replacing the existing annual Counter Terrorism and Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Dialogues.
We also appreciate EU’s counter-terrorism capacity-building support to Pakistan. At our end, we stand ready to share our counter-terrorism experience and expertise, which our law enforcement and armed forces have gained with the EU member states, to collectively defeat the menace of terrorism.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Lastly, the situation between the US and Iran is becoming a matter of serious concern for regional and global peace and security.
The developments, including the unilateral withdrawal from JCPOA by the US; re-imposition of US economic sanctions on Iran; announcement by Iran that it has removed cap on production of highly-enriched uranium and heavy water; attacks on ships and the deployment of US aircraft carrier group in the Persian Gulf; are all adding to the risks and threats to peace and stability.
Any instability in Iran is potentially detrimental to Pakistan’s security given the multiple challenges it can pose, including influx of refugees and presence of extra regional forces in our neighborhood. The conflict will be highly detrimental to the Afghan peace process as well.
Pakistan believes that JCPOA is a significant achievement and must be preserved, especially when IAEA had repeatedly verified that Iran was strictly adhering to the terms of agreement. We recognize and welcome the EU’s efforts aimed at preservation of the agreement and ensuring the implementation of agreed commitments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, I would reiterate that Pakistan believes that a new consensus on peace, security and development, can and should be developed. A new paradigm for universal peace and prosperity is both desirable and achievable. Pakistan will be a willing and able partner of the international community in this worthwhile pursuit.
I thank you.