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US, Russia, China asked to play role for S Asia peace

ISLAMABAD –  The United States, Russia and China should contribute to peace and prosperity in South Asia, a think tank suggested Tuesday.

At the end of a two-day national conference on ‘Regional Security and Foreign Policy in South, Central and West Asia’ – which was held in collaboration with German foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung – the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) emphasised the need for a political and security architecture in South Asia where prospects for peaceful resolution of disputes were diminishing due to India’s aggressive posture towards its neighbours particularly Pakistan.

The conference looked at the factors affecting peace and security in the region and possible future trajectory of events in the region.

The SVI noted that India had been emboldened by its strategic partnership with the United States, which was not only serving to contain China, but was also undermining Pakistan’s security.

The think tank warned that competition between external powers over energy resources, trade corridors, pipelines and military bases was narrowing foreign policy options for the countries in South, Central and West Asia, which could as well aggravate the security situation in the region.

The SVI observed that India was investing in Afghanistan and Iran to pave the way for expansion of its influence in West Asia. The think tank counseled the Pakistani government against participation in multilateral security arrangements that could antagonise another Muslim country.

It also called for mollifying Afghan concerns, despite being misplaced, for developing better connectivity with Central Asia.

The think tank recommended continued engagement with United States and at the same time asked the government for better planning and negotiating terms of cooperation with China so as to maximally benefit from China’s rise.

Former Defense Secretary Lt. General (Retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi, speaking at one of the sessions during the day, said Pakistan was not in a position to side with any of the major powers.

He said instead of branding others as friends and enemies, it was important to “keep an eye on their interests and align with those that suit us while resisting their interests that adversely affect us.”

Dr Tughral Yamin Malik from the National University of Science and Technology recommended diversification of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

He said the country’s foreign policy had become too much India focused and therefore it needed to be re-tuned to make it look beyond India.

In his view, the outlook of Pakistan’s external relations would have been diametrically different if only half of the efforts made to improve relations with India were dedicated for better ties with Iran and Afghanistan.

Former ambassador Fauzia Nasreen pointed to the emerging challenge of India, Afghanistan, Iran nexus for Pakistan.

She advised a nimble footed foreign policy that could balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia, address Afghanistan’s concerns, and explore prospects of improvement in relations with India.

Dr Saif Malik said projects like Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline and Central Asia and South Asia 1000, despite all the progress faced issues of financing, uninterrupted supplies and security.

“TAPI foremost requires safety in Afghanistan, whereas, realizing CASA-1000 will require strategic actions, long-term vision, and public – private sector partnership,” he underlined.

The success of the projects would, meanwhile, promote inter-regional cooperation, investments in social services, and encourage community contacts, besides strengthening politico – economic development of the region in the long run, he added.

Dr Muhammad Nadeem Mirza, from the Quaid-e-Azam university, said China was in the third phase in its journey to becoming a great power of the international system, which was the partnership phase, whereas the fourth and final phase would be the ‘leadership’ of the international system.

He analysed the Chinese perspective of the great power politics in Central Asia. He believed that the most interesting aspect of the debate was why Russia despite being the dominant power in the region was giving space to other great powers particularly China in its privileged area of influence.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 17-May-2017


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