The Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) organized a Two Day National Conference on “Emerging Geostrategic Landscape in South-West Asia and the Asia Pacific” on November 05-06, 2015 at the Islamabad Club, Islamabad. Aim of the conference was to analytically review the recent geopolitical developments in South-West Asia and the Asia-Pacific, and their implications for the strategic stability on the South Asian region. The seminar also focused on finding out policy options for Pakistan vis-à-vis the transformations that will shape the emerging South Asian geopolitical architecture and seriously impact the constituent elements of regional strategic stability.
In the Inaugural Session, a brief introduction of SVI was followed by the welcome remarks by President/Executive Director of SVI, Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema. He thanked the Chief Guest Amb. Mohammad Sadiq; Secretary National Security Division, the speakers, and the participants. The conference was well attended by the members of academia, diplomats, policy-making civil and military establishments and students in the field of strategic and nuclear studies, and international politics from prominent universities in Islamabad.
Dr. Cheema presented a detailed overview of the geopolitical landscape of South Asia and Asia Pacific under the influence of regional developments and associated realignments within and beyond the regions. He specifically elaborated on the kind of developments/trends that have taken place and are shaping the future pace and security of the region. He contended that situation in South Asian is quite unique, where India, having Modi as a PM, is different from the India in the past. Modi carries a particular personality and a distinct outlook to pursue politics in his special signature style, which is not common to Indian politics. His relations with Pakistan and special image/understanding of Pakistan as a Muslim state are very disturbing. This also resulted in suspension of Composite Dialogue and lack of communication between India and Pakistan which is not good for regional security order, and for the overall peace and security of South Asia. Pervasive India under Modi’s RSS fundamentalism and religious intolerance is equally disturbing. He further stated that the regional security paradigm and deterrence in South Asia is orchestrated in such a way that it only maximizes India’s security in the region while hugely undermining Pakistan’s security. He said that it is also important to note that Pakistan has deliberately been put under scrutiny in ‘Normal Nuclear Pakistan’ report. However Pakistan’s security establishment will continue to disregard such misconstrued speculations, as it is quite clear that five conditions or so-called ‘Brackets’ mentioned in the report would undermine Pakistan’s deterrence capability and consequently its security. Further adding to his argument, he stated that it is pertinent to analyze if the ISIS actually exists or is it just a name given to entities that are being operated by some other elements. Dr. Cheema expressed his satisfaction over the apology extended by Tony Blair for his role in Iraq and exploitation of events that eventually led to the devastating war in Iraq and the consequent emergence of terrorist elements. Dr. Cheema said that the apology is a sign of hope that the perpetrators are realizing their fault and legacy of the war is being recognized as more dangerous. Lastly, he suggested that all the various developments in these regions where China and Russia are fearful of the spillover tendencies of the conflict in Middle East and Afghanistan, military preparations in South China Sea, prospects of a new kind of Cold War; U.S vs China with India’s role in the equation and its implications for Pakistan, needs a thorough analysis.
Mr. Ronny Heine, Resident Representative of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), in his welcome remarks asserted that the emerging geostrategic realities and prospects for economic cooperation in the region needs a deep analysis of a very important question as to what policy decisions could be adopted in order to sustain peace and security in the region?
Amb. Mohammad Sadiq, Secretary National Security Division, while addressing the Inaugural Session argued that the future of the region is going to define the future of the globe. The emergence of China as a new power has mounted competition vis-à-vis the United States. However, the region is facing various long-standing issues like Terrorism, Energy Security, Sectarian Violence, Economic instability and Climate change. Along with that there are foreign interventions in the region, instability in Afghanistan and the legacy of Arab Spring in the Middle East, which are the threatening elements in the Asia Pacific region. He said that the Iranian deal is a welcome development; however, Iran’s increasing assertiveness and sectarian divide if not contained, could germinate low/high level conflicts in the region. He suggested that the need of the hour is for Iran to play its vital role in de-escalation of the tensions in Yemen, Syria and Iraq for the sake of better future of the Middle East. Talking about the South Asian security paradigm, he said that as far as India-Pakistan relations are concerned, they are marred with Modi’s Hindu extremism, insecurity of RSS and control over Kashmir. In this context, India’s rivalry against China is only artificial since the real policy target for India is still Pakistan. He said that Sino-Indian relations are two-dimensional: cooperative and confrontational as they include avenues such as BRICS, SCO, Economic cooperation along with territorial disputes and tensions in Pacific and Indian Ocean respectively. Lastly, the bottom line is to carefully analyze that the governments and people of the region are able to ensure security through mutual consensus on a number of prevalent historical and contemporary disputes.
The session titled “Contemporary Geostrategic Landscape of South-West Asia and the Asia Pacific” was chaired by Amb. (R) Shamshad Ahmad Khan. He introduced the distinguished speakers of the session and provided a brief overview of the subject.
Air Cdre. (R) Khalid Iqbal, Non-Resident Consultant, IPRI, while speaking on “Contemporary Geostrategic Environment in South Asia”, divided his presentation into six parts including; broader context of the debate, regional integration, evolving situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan-India dynamics, extremism and terrorism, and non-traditional challenges. According to him, international environment is marked by uncertainty, volatility and rapid transformation. This transformation has increased the demand for raw materials, food, water and energy. Inefficient management of Monson water, challenges of climate changes, humanitarian aspect of some of the territorial disputes, conflicts involving sharing of water resources, boundary related territorial disputes, arms race, state sponsored people to people animosity, ethno-sectarian intolerance, denial of right of self-determination, and various shades of terrorism are some of the endemic issues confronted by contemporary South Asia—with no easy solutions in sight. In addition to it, the space for traditional application of military force has also been restricted because of the presence of nuclear weapons. As a result, forms of conflicts have changed. However, on the broader context, the shift in the US defence posture is resultantly causing a change in the patterns of great powers rivalries in the region. In similar vein, strategic re-alignments are underway wherein Russian intervention in Crimea and Syria and provocative passage of US Naval ship USS Lassen close to Chinese island are major developments. He stated that America’s new found focus on Asia Pacific and Indian propriety claims on Indian Ocean are further adding to the unease in South Asia, as they may strengthen prevalent centrifugal pulls amongst the countries of this sub-region. As far as the situation in Afghanistan is concerned, the picture is very gloomy. He said that the international and regional community should keep in mind that there is no military solution to the situation in Afghanistan. Talking about India-Pakistan relations, the speaker’s focus was on the peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute, continuation of dialogue, ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) and strategic stability in South Asia. He mentioned the frequent disruptions of dialogues and suggested that serious dialogues are needed to achieve nuclear restraint, conventional balance and conflict resolution between these two states. He said that the Indo-US Agreement 123 has given India a qualitative edge over its neighbors. He also appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in fight against terrorism.
Amb. (R) Sohail Amin, President IPRI, in his presentation on “Contemporary Geostrategic Environment in West Asia” added that the contemporary geostrategic environment is going through turbulent times. The situation is marred with post 9/11 scenario, Palestine issue and conflicts in the Middle East. In fact, today’s disorder is the outcome of U.S interventions and its post 9/11 policy of revenge and fear. The United States has also been obsessed with the regions that are breeding grounds of terrorism. The situation has been further made complicated because several of the lack of an effective plan by the US for Iraq after Saddam, ignorance of demographic structure of the
region, and leaving the issue of Ukraine to EU. The situation in West Asia is also in flux where political processes need to be advanced if prosperity of the world and especially of the region is the purpose.
Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Asst. Prof., Department of Peace & Conflict Studies, NUST, talking about “Contemporary Geostrategic Environment in Asia Pacific”, was of the view that the geostrategic environment of Asia-Pacific region has changed from the US’ dominance to now China’s increasing existence. The US strategists think that they must have a military capability to counter and defeat an emerging competitor, which in this case is China. For China, South China Sea is of great significance. Economically, $5.3 trillion worth of trade, including $1.2 trillion of the US, passes through the South China Sea on annual basis (Glaser 2012). Roughly 15 million barrels of oil is transported daily through the Malacca Strait and South China Sea to East Asia (Snowiss 2015). In addition to this 80 percent of China’s oil imports pass through the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca (Buszynski 2012: 145). It is also significant for China because of two island groups; Paracels and Spratlys. Paracels has been firmly in Chinese hands since January 1974, when China seized islands from South Vietnamese government. There are contentious claims over the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Pratas Islands, Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal. China claims almost all of the area extending closer to Indonesia. This claim is based on historical records of the Han (110AD) and Ming (1403-1433AD) Dynasties. He further stated that the resources inherent in the heart of this region also augment the significance of the South China Sea.
Amb. (R) Shamshad Ahmad Khan, while concluding the session gave some recommendations. According to him, Global security environment needs to be stabilized in accordance with United Nations Charter. There is a need for the establishment of multi-national institutions for the regional military balance. These forums would expand the security of the states. Pending global disarmament should be undertaken. There is also a need for negotiations for the reduction in the size of armed forces. The right of every state for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the role of MTCR, AG and other arrangements should be kept in mind while devising criteria for nuclear-related agreement and should not be abused.
The Second session titled “US and the Asia Pacific Region” was chaired by Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, Dean, Faculty of Contemporary Studies, NDU. After introducing the distinguished speakers, he highlighted the new developments in the region and argued that America’s concerns, regional cooperation and the sensitivities of the concerned actors should be kept in mind in order to understand and to make effective regional strategies.
The first speaker of the session, Amb. (R) Fauzia Nasreen, HoD, Department of Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS, spoke on the topic titled “The United States Rebalancing Strategy in the Asia Pacific”. She enumerated the core interests of the U.S which include:
- The globalized nature of the US diplomatic, political, economic and geo-political interests;
- Priority accorded to maintaining US status as the leading power;
- Based on the above, desire to shape the international order and norms in accordance with US values and interests;
- To preserve the leading power status, US must have predominant military presence in the vital strategic areas;
- In order to sustain its global military outreach, strong US economy is needed and vice versa. US must promote economic partnership and integration with the economic power houses located in the Asia-Pacific region; and
Check challengers to US objectives, by a combination of strategies aimed at deterrence and dissuasion as well as countering what it describes as anti-access and area denial threats.
She further elaborated that the recent evolutionary process related to the strategy is equally important to understand the nuances. After preoccupation with War on Terror throughout the Bush era, when Obama Administration took over in 2009, a review of the US global strategy was carried out. It was concluded that the US’ troop deployment and focus was heavily tilted towards Europe, the Middle East (Iraq) and Afghanistan. Together with heavy economic cost and general fatigue, the Obama Administration decided to move out of Iraq and announced draw down of its troops in Afghanistan by December 2014. This was also partly necessitated by the financial crisis of 2008 and recession in the US economy. The rethinking of the global strategy was reflected in some statements of US officials thereon. Then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton clearly demonstrated orientation towards East Asia during her visits to the region in 2009. The aim was to intensify engagements both at the bilateral and multilateral levels. These engagements included China that had already consolidated its economic and diplomatic ties with the Asia-Pacific countries. The pronouncement of the Rebalancing was first made in June 2011 by US Secretary Defence in Singapore. The rationale for the Rebalancing Strategy are the US’ economic and security interests which US perceives to be “inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities”. As a deterrent strategy, the US has reaffirmed that it will project its power in areas where US has access and operates freely. US would also defy such limits as Air Defence Identification Zone and other restrictive measures. In the execution of the Strategic Guidance document guidelines for sustaining US global leadership especially in the Asia-Pacific region, the US Special operations Forces (SOF) and the Pacific Command (PACOM) enjoy relevant significance. She talked about the Chinese perceptions as well, mentioning that since reference in the US Strategic re-posturing have been made to China both in terms of constructive cooperation and containment, it would be relevant to look at the Rebalancing strategy from the Chinese perspective. As explained in former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s April 2015 paper, China perceives “The Future of US-China Relationship under Xi Jinping”, where “America, is deeply opposed to China’s rise, and is driven to do whatever it takes to prevent” its rise as a regional and global power. In this connection China views US’ rebalancing towards Asia Pacific as an unequivocal evidence of this strategy. On his part Xi Jinping has propounded the concept of “new type of great power relationship” between China and the US, eschewing the politics of “zero-sum game.” However, China views global power structure in terms of multi-polarity as opposed to uni-polarity. In her concluding remarks she stated that while both China and the US are vying for influence and status in the Asia-pacific region, they are cognizant of the adverse consequences of taking competition too far.
Dr. Syed Shahid Hussain Bukhari, Asst. Prof., Department of Political Science, BZU, talked about “2015 Framework for Indo-US Defence and Strategic Collaborations: Implications for Pakistan”. According to him, the importance of defense relationship between India and the United States has been elevated from the status of ‘an element’ to a ‘vital pillar of engagement’. Defense relationship is the ‘Key Component’ of the bilateral relationship between these two countries wherein military to military interaction and joint exercises, exchange of intelligence, regional peace and stability, counter terrorism cooperation, nuclear non-proliferation, strengthening two-way defense trade and exploring cooperation related to BMD, have been the significant areas of cooperation. He elaborated on the implications of this cooperative trend for the region mentioning that the convergence of India’s ‘Act East’ policy and United States’ ‘Rebalancing Strategy’ acts as a strategic signal to counter China. Furthermore, US warship entering into South China Sea with a claim to have the right for free navigation under International laws is what further augments China’s worries. The US’ claim is based on its commitment to help its allies in the region who have contending claims over the South China Sea. Specifically talking about implications for Pakistan, he was of the view that Indian naval dominance in the Indian Ocean can enable India to disrupt Pakistan’s freedom of navigation. India-US shared-interests also include control over Afghanistan as a common goal. Indian presence at Pakistan’s Western border with the US’ support is perilous for Pakistan. Modi’s ‘Make in India’ policy and United States’ desperation to build India as a defense partner enhances the chances of sophisticated defense technology transfer to India. This Co-development and co-production of defense equipment will definitely contribute to India’s military might. Similarly, 2015 framework that calls for exploring collaboration related to BMD, will encourage India for adventurous plans like ‘Cold Start’ that may cripple regional security in the presence of Tactical Nuclear Weapons.
Mr. David Greene, Deputy Political Counselor, US Embassy in Islamabad, presented his views on “Obama’s Administration’s Asia Pivot Strategy and Implications for the Region”. He said that America has been and is a Pacific Power. While mentioning the slow economic growth in region he stated that the growth of the region is stalled owing to different conflicts; therefore, there is a need for diplomatic and economic development of the region. In this context, the United States sees CPEC as a key promoter of economic and energy model, thus, US appreciates all such kind of endeavors.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, President/Executive Director SVI, chaired the third Session titled “Advancing Nuclear Weaponization in South Asia”. He introduced the speakers and without making any assertions welcomed the first speaker to begin the session.
Dr. Zulfqar Khan, HoD, Department of Strategic Studies, NDU, discussed the “Nuclearization of South Asia: Implications for the Regional Security”. According to him, the present day regional security dynamics are in a state of transformation in spite of Nuclearization of South Asia. Presently, there is a geo-strategic transformation going on as is evident from the developments in the form of CPEC, TPP, AIIB, SCO, Russian resurgence, and an overall volatility of Middle Eastern region. This transformation brought about two major changes where on the one hand it brought India closer to the US and on the other hand brought Pakistan further close to China. In addition to this, Indian armed forces are being modernized, which is tilting the conventional balance that would negatively impact the stability of deterrence in the region. Moreover, absence of “Arms Control and Conflict Resolution Mechanism” has led to divergent posturing by both the states and has created a stability-instability paradox, as a result of which, the involvement by extra regional countries is growing. He mentioned that recently a debate has been created to constraint or to restructure the nuclear posturing of Pakistan vis-à-vis India. This thesis was projected by Krepon and Perkovich in a piece – A Normal: Nuclear Pakistan. The US scholars (Krepon and Perkovich) underscored that, “With accession to the NPT blocked, membership in the NSG has become the primary pathway sought by Pakistan to be accorded nuclear normalcy”. Dr. Zulfqar discussed in detail all the dimensions and brackets mentioned in the report. With regards to “full-spectrum” posturing and why it is important for the regional security, he said that it would hold the Indian conventional forces’ advantage and compellence at bay and will robustly reinforce Pakistan’s deterrence. He concluded by saying that deterrence is essentially a combination of potentials including defensive, offensive and the ability to punish.
Next speaker of the session, Dr. Zafar Khan, Asst. Prof., Department of Strategic Studies, NDU, spoke on “India’s Nuclear Weapons, Ballistic Missile Capabilities and Nuclear Doctrinal Posture”. He stated that India in the wake of its nuclear weapons tests, opted for a policy of credible minimum deterrence, followed by the doctrinal posture of No-first use, and adopted a nuclear strategy of punitive retaliation. However it is still a draft nuclear policy where India seems to be flexible in its approach and is gradually shifting away from what it initially conceptualized – that is, there comes an obvious policy difference between India’s nuclear policy draft in 1999 and to what it proposes in 2003. He further mentioned that the new grand nuclear strategy includes India’s military Cold Start Doctrine (CSD), India’s development of non-strategic battlefield weapons, assured second-strike capability in the form of nuclear submarine, the development of Inter-continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), Multi-Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), and Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, which have granted India a credible incentive to gradually move away from the previously mentioned three broader contours of India’s nuclear posture. Further elaborating on the changing dynamics in the Indian Defence posture he mentioned that India’s doctrinal posture is supported by the deployment of ballistic missile defense shield that is; 1) Prithvi Air Defense missile (PAD) to intercept the high altitude missile (exo-atmospheric); 2) Ashwin Advanced Air Defense (AAD) to intercept the low altitude missiles (endo-atmospheric). It is estimated that this two-shield BMD system is supposed to intercept any incoming missile launched at the distance of 5000km. India has continuously been conducting various PAD and AAD missile defense tests to enhance their credibility. He expressed that although Pakistan may not be interested in weapon-to-weapon arms race, neither could it economically afford to indulge into this, nonetheless India would expect Pakistan to rely on nuclear weapons and proportionally increase its deterrence forces in order to sustain deterrence stability. However, it will not be a nuclear parity, but a balance that is essential for strategic stability in South Asia. So in this backdrop, Pakistan’s pursuit of Full-Spectrum Deterrence is an essential part of these strategic endeavors to sustain deterrence stability. He maintained that the full spectrum deterrence falls within the broader parameters of minimum deterrence; it suffices the minimum deterrence; it has got nothing necessarily to do with increasing number of deterrent forces; it stays one of the essential pillars of Pakistan’s nuclear policy; it eases the unexpected pressures on command and control system; it endorses the nuclear peace; it strengthens the credibility of minimum deterrence; it avoids the erosion of deterrence stability in South Asia; it addresses the issues of increasing conventional asymmetry; it remains defensive; it plugs the missing gaps within deterrence; and it deters all forms of aggressions both at the strategic and conventional level.
Dr. Adil Sultan, Director ACDA, SPD, presented his views on the topic titled “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons, Ballistic Missile Capabilities and Nuclear Posture”. He contended that the development of surface to surface short range ballistic missile (SRBM) ‘NASR’ (Hatf IX) by Pakistan to counter India’s Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) has generated intense debate on the impact of these weapons on the South Asian strategic stability. The ‘NASR’ SRBM missile system that could also be categorized as a Tactical Nuclear Weapon (TNW), is now part of Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) nuclear posture, but is being misconstrued by some as a ‘quantitative’ shift from Pakistan’s declared policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence. This understanding is mainly based on the only available literature from the Cold War period, therefore, needs to be contextualized in the South Asian strategic environment as there exists significant differences along with some similarities at the conceptual level when operationalizing nuclear deterrence in the regional context. He stated that the rivalry between India and Pakistan is not like that of Cold War as it is not between two super powers.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, then, welcomed Amb. (R) Zamir Akram, Former Permanent Representative to CD/United States, Geneva, to share his views on the topic. According to Amb. (R) Zamir Akram, an attack is being made on Pakistan’s Nuclear Policy by the West through a report titled ‘A Normal Nuclear Pakistan’. He said that such kind of pressure is not new as Pakistan has been facing such situations since 1974 when India carried out the tests. Ironically, it was India’s test which started different amendments being adapted by US after 1974. However, the problem is that Pakistan had to respond to a given security environment since there can’t be any compromise on our security interests i.e. to protect our credible minimum deterrence. To answer the question as to why the world is focusing on Pakistan only, he explained that it is primarily because the US does not want any Muslim state to have nuclear weapons which may eventually threaten Israel who has the veto in its region being the sole nuclear weapon state. Hence the aim is to pressurize Pakistan by raising doubts about its nuclear program, highlighting its bad track record of proliferation i.e A. Q Khan issue, and issue of safety and security of its nuclear weapons. Diplomatically, Pakistan’s response was to seek assurances through NWFZ and Negative Security Assurances but unfortunately none of these were translated into action, so the only choice left for Pakistan was to develop its own security. In 1998, Pakistan had credible strategic deterrence. It can be seen from some positive trends with India e.g. Lahore Declaration, CBMs that would help in conventional fields. But, 2006 waiver to India given by the US, that included concessions for civil nuclear use, has enabled India to divert fissile material clandestinely for military purposes. Moreover, waiver is part of a broader strategic partnership between the US and India against China. For this purpose, the US has been building a string of alliances with various states including India in Pacific and other South East Asian nations. This is the global strategic rationale for what we see today in the region. It has encouraged Indians to become more adventurous which surely has implications for Pakistan. Now India wants to redevelop salience of strategic deterrence. Its pace of development shows that it is moving from nuclear to hydrogen bomb. He suggested that this prevailing environment in South Asia requires a determined/concentrated policy pursuance by Pakistan. Pakistan needs to be clear that what is being dangled (normal nuclear Pakistan) by them (West) in front of Pakistan is meaningless. United States on its part needs to realize that Pakistan is not going to compromise on its strategic interests and the Western conditions for normalization are unacceptable to Pakistan. Pakistan, in this regard, has to be confident and US should deal with Pakistan as it would a nuclear weapon state. He stressed that even NPT, to which Pakistan is not a party, recognizes the state’s right to peaceful nuclear use. So, Pakistan should not fall for the bait of NSG offer. In order to create a stable strategic environment in South Asia, the US and its partners need to recognize Pakistan as a responsible nuclear weapon state and to put an end to their discriminatory policy.
The fourth session titled “Great Power Politics in the South Asian Region” was chaired by Amb. (R) Akram Zaki. He introduced the panelists by highlighting their expertise on the subject. He further asserted that one should have a clear understanding of the dynamics in the region. He mentioned that China does not act like world super power as it believes that it is still a developing country. Superpower tends to dominate other states but in the case of China, it likes to cooperate through connectivity.
Dr. Azhar Ahmad, Independent Researcher, spoke about the “Dynamics of Pakistan-China Relations: Pak-China Economic Corridor (CPEC)”. According to him, Sino-Pak relationship is on the road to flourish. He suggested that to get an idea as to how unconditional love looks like on geopolitical stage, one should look no further than China and Pakistan. There is US $ 20 billion investment by China in Pakistan, other than CPEC and there is no denying the fact that CPEC is integrating all provinces of Pakistan. He further mentioned that China’s economic growth is phenomenal in the last three decades and the good thing is that China supports Pakistan who has mostly been on the receiving end. However in the case of CPEC, Pakistan gets an equal footing in the relationship where the benefits are mutually shared. However, he suggested that China and Pakistan need to understand each other better and should not take their friendship for granted. China, no doubt, is a developing superpower with peculiar features but Pakistan should conduct business on basis of equality. He suggested that it is the right time when Pakistan should reduce its reliance on friends that have continuously exploited it in the past.
Dr. Andrey Shabalin, Political Counselor, Embassy of Russian Federation, shared his view point on “Russia’s Contemporary Policies in South Asia”. He asserted that Russia Dr. Andrey Shabalin, Political Counselor, Embassy of Russian Federation, shared his view point on “Russia’s Contemporary Policies in South Asia”. He asserted that Russia wants stability without the need for any single specific superpower in the region. he maintained that various factors should be considered while establishing regional relations including political, socio-cultural, and strategic factors etc. In this context, India is Russia’s constant partner and a member of BRICS as well. However, Russia does recognize Pakistan’s role too as a regional player but Russia’s commercial relations are far behind than political relations with Pakistan. Russia supports LNG Karachi-Lahore pipeline and recognizes Pakistan’s efforts to counter terrorism, and seeks to hold more regular and robust negotiations on various issues of mutual interests. However he said that the presence of nuclear weapons in South Asia makes the situation complicated where it becomes difficult to implement workable CBMs. He further elaborated that Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives are also included in Russian policy in the South Asian region. He said that increasing engagements on regional forums and CBMs in Asia is ultimately shaping a multi-polar world order. In this regard, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Nepal and Srilanka are the most important players. Russia supports full membership of Pakistan and India in SCO. It believes in conflict resolution to guarantee regional peace. It also supports CPEC. However, ISAF and instability in Afghanistan is a matter of concern to Russia and it wants to see a just solution to Afghan problem. In this vein, a comprehensive action to reduce terrorist threat from Afghanistan is need of the hour. Russia also believes that the West has a tendency to dictate its own economic policies on the regional states where the obsolete norms of WTO will not make global economy any better. Therefore, he believes that AIIB is a good move in the right direction.
Dr. Azmat Hayat khan, Professor, Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, spoke about “Geopolitical Realignment: Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran and its Impact on Balance of Power in South Asia”. According to him, Afghanistan is now a volatile state and because of its geographical location, any further instability in Afghanistan would affect the whole region. ISIS, also, is emerging and getting stronger while no one really knows about their exact policy and agenda and who it is being supported and financed by. In this context, he suggested that Pakistan should be cautious in its friendship with Saudi Arabia. He said that KSA should not prevent Pakistan from buying oil from Iran nor should it dictate Pakistan in its struggle against sectarianism and strategic instability. Moreover he suggested that the improved relationship with Iran should be the focus of the time as Iran has the capacity to play a major power role consequently bringing peace in the region. He suggested that Pakistan’s policy, in this regard, should be realistic and not religious one.
The fifth session titled “Emerging Geopolitical Order in West Asia” was chaired by Lt. Gen. (R) Asif Yasin Malik. After the brief introduction of the speakers, he highlighted the potential of changing environment in the West Asian region.
The first speaker of the session, Amb. (R) Arif Kamal, Director GS, ISSRA, spoke on the topic titled “Power Politics and Nuclear Proliferation in West Asia”. He said that the political architecture of West Asia as viewed in terms of centers of gravity and competing interests, is overwhelmed by two regional orbits and their interplay with inner dynamics and international stakeholders. This primarily relates to the unfinished agenda of Arab-Israel conflict and its ramifications, and the Persian-Arab rivalry that is being transferred from traditional realm to the contemporary arena. The scenario today is characterized by Iran’s rise, filling in the vacuum created by the US’ ventures in the Middle East, and the consequent convergence and re-mobilization of the Arab ranks. Ironically, this rivalry eclipses the Arab states’ threat perception of Israel and its edge in the nuclear attainment. In the evolving scenario, the P-5 Nuclear Agreement with Iran carries an implicit recognition of Iran as a regional power in its own right and without eroding its image as a nuclear-capable power, caps its capacity towards weapons acquisition. The development is most likely to provide an impulse to the Arab flank to develop and acquire nuclear technology and set the stage for their ‘peaceful agenda’. However, constraints in the way of Arabs’ ability to match Iran may prompt them to seek or accept a nuclear umbrella of sorts that represents Western guarantees viz-a-viz Iran. He stated that the situation in Syria presents a big challenge not just for the region but for the whole world. The scenario is fraught with complications in the backdrop of American inclination to extricate themselves from direct involvement and the advantage taken by the Russians move into the arena. In this backdrop, key players may soon be prompted to consider broad parameters of new security architecture for the region.
Mr. Shams uz Zaman, Visiting Faculty Member, RIUC, presented his views on the topic titled “Various Dimensions of Iranian Nuclear Deal”. He stated that Iran’s nuclear controversy was stirred in 2002 after the disclosure of two secret Iranian nuclear facilities; one at Arak and the other at Natanz. He further stated that amid International pressure, Iran held negotiations with EU-3 comprising of Germany, France and the United Kingdom and agreed to suspend Uranium enrichment after signing the additional protocol. But President Ahmedinejad’s hardliner government resumed Uranium enrichment at Natanz in 2005 consequently prompting Russia, China and US to join EU-3 thus forming P-5+1 diplomatic team to negotiate on Iranian nuclear activities. Furthermore, the disclosure of another secret Uranium enrichment facility in 2009 at Fordo and Iran’s subsequent refusal to allow IAEA inspectors at Parchin military complex, invited sanctions from International community. After the elections in 2013, the newly elected President Hassan Rouhani adopted a conciliatory approach towards P-5+1 on the nuclear issue and succeeded in finalizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 15 July 2015 at Vienna. He also mentioned that the JCPOA between Iran and the US was materialized despite all the odds. However, as President Obama prepares to leave the office, other challenges to the nuclear deal might emerge from Republicans or even by the possible Iranian actions. While threat of Israeli strike on Iran has receded, thus addressing a potential source of destabilization for the region, other factors, not particularly associated to nuclear realm, might still be a cause of problem, for example Iran’s intervention in Syria and Yemen or frequent missile tests might cause the deal to fail. He contended that the GCC states are also apprehensive of the deal alongside Israel therefore the struggle to project power in the region through proxies would remain a continuous source of irritation resulting in the escalation of conflict below the sub-conventional level without ruling out the risks of a major war.
The next speaker of the session, Ms. Maimuna Ashraf, Research Associate, SVI, spoke on the topic titled, “Implications of the Iranian Nuclear Deal for South Asia, especially for Pakistan”. She was of the opinion that Iran is the second largest nation in the Middle East by population. It borders with Armenia to the North-West; the Caspian Sea to the North; Turkmenistan to the North-East; Pakistan and Afghanistan to the East; Turkey and Iraq to the West; and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the South. It is the only country that has both; a Caspian Sea, and an Indian Ocean coastline. Simply put, it has the central location in Eurasia and Western Asia. She was of the view that the lifting of U.S. and International sanctions on Iran will allow for the Islamabad-Tehran relationship to be increasingly driven by economic and geographic realities. Pakistan and Iran are neighbors, where Pakistan is a net energy importer while Iran is a net energy exporter. In the same context, the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Pakistan as part of a multi-country tour to explore opportunities for greater economic and security cooperation in the region following the landmark nuclear deal with the P5+1. In April 2015, Pakistan and Iran decided to prepare a five-year plan to enhance bilateral trade to the tune of US $5bn. In anticipation of the lifting of sanctions on Iran, Islamabad and Tehran are moving forward with two major energy projects: a natural gas pipeline, and an electricity transmission line. Together, both projects will alleviate Pakistan’s crippling shortages in both electricity and vehicle fuel. It is also being hoped that the deal will pave the way for the completion of sanction-delayed IP gas pipeline project between Islamabad and Tehran. At the same time it is being predicted that the Indo-Iran relationship will continue to grow, but with China’s big bet on Pakistan (CPEC)– in the tens of billions of dollars – and Pakistan distancing itself from the regional sectarian war, Iran appears keen to partner with Pakistan rather than playing an antagonistic role in the country. The deal also creates an opportunity for cooperation between Iran and Pakistan to promote peace in their respective Baluchistan regions. Tehran is making additional investments in the stability of Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan. Iran and Pakistan are quite close to finalizing a 1000MW electricity transmission deal. She further elaborated that all these developments are important for India being the world’s fourth largest energy consumer and having an economy that is largely dependent on oil imports. For India, the removal of sanctions on Iran brings an opportunity to proceed trade with Iran; India will be able to make payments for Iranian oil imports in US dollars and insurance companies will now be able to underwrite tankers carrying Iranian oil. India is also exploring the option for building an undersea pipeline in the Arabian Sea to import Iranian gas. However despite all these prospects, the deal also poses challenges for India. In 2009 India voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over its Uranium enrichment activities. The Iranians were miffed by this treatment but couldn’t do much with limited foreign policy options.
The sixth session of the conference was titled “Politics in Asia Pacific” and was chaired by Amb (R) Salim Nawaz Gandapur. He gave a brief introduction of the speakers, while highlighting the salient features and emerging issues in the Asia Pacific.
The First speaker of this session Mr. Zhao Lijian, DCM-Political Counselor, Embassy of Peoples Republic of China, spoke about “China as the Emerging Power in Asia Pacific”. He explained that an emerging power or rising power is a term used as recognition of the rising, primarily economic influence of a nation, which has steadily increased its presence in the global affairs. Such a power aspires to have a more powerful position or role in international relations both regionally and globally, and possess sufficient resources and levels of development in order to make such goals potentially achievable. In this vein, the growth in China’s overall national power, including its military, economic and demographic capabilities are the key determinants of its role as an emerging power in Asia Pacific. China believes in mutual cooperation and development within the region, as is evident from its developmental projects like CPEC etc. China also appreciates Pakistan’s efforts in Afghanistan Peace Process. China considers that Afghanistan’s stability is imperative for the regional security, peace and development.
The next speaker, Ms. Sadia Kazmi, Senior Research Associate, SVI, spoke about “Sino-US Confrontation in Asia Pacific“. She stated that the region figures prominently in the foreign policy orientation of the major powers today especially China and the US. The region presents a strategic landscape upon which hinges both states’ utmost security concerns ultimately dictating their policy choices. However this also means that the interests of the two are bound to clash with each other since both affix an equal amount of significance to the region. Along with that, conflicts on the Korean Peninsula and the confrontations in East and South China seas are seen by both to be having far reaching regional and ultimately global implications. China by the virtue of its geographical location assumes natural role of a regional power in Asia Pacific, while in case of the US; this tilt is nothing new but an extension of its previous policies seeking to expand its global area of influence. In this backdrop the confrontational pattern is mostly centered on China’s rise as a regional power and the future role of the United States in the Asia Pacific. She maintained that the US seeks to ensure that China is unable to establish an exclusive sphere of influence in the region that might deny the economic, political, and military access to the US in the Asia Pacific. She was of the opinion that in order to achieve this objective, the US will continue to strengthen its existing alliances with the Pacific states, as it attempts to create a regional security architecture where the US should be an equal stakeholder. China’s security strategy on the other hand, is shaped up by the perceived threats from “hegemonism and power politics”. She contended that the whole regional politics in Asia pacific are focused on South China Sea. Even though South China Sea was a major topic on the agenda in the meeting between President Xi and President Obama but no substantial progress in this regard has been witnessed, hence, the risk of conflict in the South China Sea is significant. She said that even though for now, the challenges and confrontations may appear to be manageable, the clashes and tensions will remain a major part of Asia Pacific security landscape. In the end she made some recommendations and suggested that the two sides should continue discussions on major military activities CBM, and deepen exchanges and cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-piracy, and international peacekeeping. The two sides have decided to participate in the RIMPAC-2016 joint exercise. She suggested that both states should take practical steps and facilitate understanding in the areas such as personnel exchanges, vessel visits, intelligence and information sharing and joint campaign against illegal and criminal activities at sea.
The last speaker of the session, Air Cdre. (R) Ghulam Mujadid, Registrar, Air University, Islamabad, spoke on the topic titled “Role of India in the Asia Pacific and Implications for Pakistan”. He mentioned that India’s “Look East” policy has gained greater momentum where it has been upgraded to ‘Act East Policy’ during the India-ASEAN Summit in Myanmar in November 2014. India is becoming increasingly willing to play a more active and prominent strategic role, exemplified by enhanced defence diplomacy in East and Southeast Asia. As part of this agenda, Modi has advocated a ‘Look East, Link West Policy’ pointing to a broader Indo-Pacific conceptualisation of India’s regional designs. With regards to the South China Sea (SCS) and the prevailing disputes in that part of the region, India very clearly highlighted the potential of the disputes to destabilise the regional security, as was mentioned in the joint statement with US and with Vietnam; at East Asia Summit and at India-ASEAN Summit 2014. The speaker mentioned that the Indo-US strategic and commercial partnership has elevated India’s status which is the reverse of their 1950’s relationship pattern when considerations for Pakistan used to prescribe American engagement with India but now the situation has reversed. He suggested that Pakistan’s strategic community, academia and policy circles should continue to discuss and hold result oriented debate over the present power structure and characteristics and dynamics of international system. He said that India’s Act East Policy is not restricted to Asia-Pacific region only; rather it is omni-directional.
Concluding Session and Recommendations
In his Keynote Address, Lt. Gen. (R) Syed Muhammad Owais, Secretary, Ministry of Defence Production, Rawalpindi, appreciated the endeavour of SVI and KAS for organizing such a timely seminar. He also appreciated the services of SVI in terms of its continuous contribution to multi-dimensional scholarship through various national and In-house seminars. He was of the opinion that Pakistan needs a neutral position in contemporary international and regional strategic environment in order to tackle any aggression from its adversary and to have sustained development. General Owais believed that Pakistan would continue facing pressures from India who would try to pull it into an arms race, exploit its internal vulnerabilities and negatively project Pakistan’s image on the world stage. Additionally, he feared that India’s engagement with Afghanistan was for the sake of keeping it away from Pakistan. “Indo-US strategic alliance has emboldened India to continue coercing Pakistan towards a compliance mode”, he maintained. The secretary suggested that Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan would have to reconfigure their domestic and foreign policies to ensure peace and stability in the region. About the US, he said that Pakistan would have to find common grounds to strengthen their bilateral relations despite certain divergences.
The proceedings of each session were followed by an interactive discussion in which the participants raised a number of high quality questions regarding the issues covered in the respective sessions and were answered comprehensively by the concerned speakers.
At the end, Mr. Ross Masood Husain, Chairperson SVI, made some significant recommendations where he suggested that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran should adjust their foreign and domestic policies in order to enhance peace and security in the region. He stated that CPEC brings a positive dimension to the developments in the region as it will enhance regional stability through mutual development and cooperation, which will allow China to play a major power role in the region. He also suggested that Pakistan needs a neutral position in contemporary international and regional order to tackle any aggression from its adversary and sustained developments, and that Pakistan should opt for a balanced foreign policy.
After all the enlightening presentations by the learned speakers and interactive question/answer sessions, Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema concluded the conference by profoundly thanking the entire august audience present in the house and said that their presence has made this conference a successful endeavor. He offered special thanks to the chief guest and expressed his appreciation to all the honorable speakers who presented their paper and enlightened the audience with their expertise on the subject. He extended his gratitude towards research and secretarial staff of the SVI for the hard work put into conducting this two day national conference. He also greatly admired and appreciated the help of other associations, panaflex, publishers, printers, the press, media, photographer and volunteers.
The proceeding of Conference was covered by various leading newspapers. The links are mentioned below: