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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday categorically rejected baseless Indian assertions on its new political map in the 15th meeting of the Secretaries of National Security Councils of Shangahi Cooperation Organization (SCO) Member States.

Responding to media queries regarding Indian Ministry of External Affairs' statement on the meeting of the NSAs of SCO member states, Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri stated that Pakistan was committed to the SCO as a platform for regional cooperation.

"We are actively playing a positive and constructive role and following the SCO charter to not let our bilateral relations with any country impact our engagement with SCO," he said.

"Today, at the meeting of NSAs of SCO member states, India tried to vitiate the atmosphere by objecting to Pakistan's official map. The map reaffirms Pakistan's commitment to the UN Security Council Resolutions and the supremacy of the UN Charter. We categorically reject baseless Indian assertions on the issue," the spokesperson added.

Prime Minister's Special Assistant on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf represented Pakistan in the online meeting.

India, which was represented by its National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, had formally raised an objection against Pakistan on the display of the political map.

In its reply, Pakistan highlighted that India under international law had no legal rights to claim the internationally-recognised disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India.

Pakistan also categorically rejected Indian assertions that the newly-released political map included any part of Indian territory.

Pakistan informed the SCO Secretariat that India's illegal and unilateral actions in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir were in grave violation of the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Furthermore, Pakistan emphasised that the new political map represented Pakistan's rights and the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

It emphasised that Pakistan retains an abiding commitment to seeking a resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute through a free and impartial plebiscite in accordance with the UN Charter and the UNSC resolutions. The SCO agreed to Pakistan's position. While addressing the meeting, Dr Moeed Yusuf said that Pakistan considered SCO as a vital platform to forge closer ties with regional partners and promote various mechanisms and processes for multi-faceted linkages, connectivity and cooperation among the member states.

He said that SCO member states could reap benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Eurasian Economic Union, the two landmark initiatives.

"Economic Diplomacy and connectivity are high on the agenda of our Government and we stand ready to contribute in trans-regional economic and trade development," he said.

While talking about Afghan peace process, he said that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was important for peace, stability and connectivity in the region and beyond.

In this respect, he welcomed the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations.

"Pakistan has long held that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that a negotiated political settlement is the only way forward," he said. He said that Afghan stakeholders must seize this historic opportunity and work together to secure inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement. He assured that Pakistan would continue to play the role of a facilitator in the peace process. He said that Afghan alone had the authority to decide on the future of their country.

"No outside actor should be seen as the guarantor of peace in that country. The process must be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led," he stressed. He said that Pakistan contributed the most towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. "In line with our vision of economic connectivity, Pakistan remains fully committed to facilitating Afghanistan's transit trade and its overall access to the world," he added.

About peace in the region, Yusuf said Pakistan shared the SCO's strong opposition to the three evils: terrorism, extremism and separatism.

He asserted that Pakistan wished peace in the region and resolution of all outstanding disputes through peaceful dialogue.

"We believe that unilateral and illegal measures in violation of UNSC Resolutions are the biggest hurdle in creating an enabling environment for such a dialogue and such measures should be opposed at all cost," he said.

He stressed that we must not allow any country to use terrorism-related allegations as a political tool to malign and victimize nations and societies.

"We must condemn and hold accountable the perpetrators of state terrorism against people under illegal occupation in disputed territories," he said.

"We must stand united in opposing resurgence of violent nationalism, fascism and militarism in any shape or form," he said. He said that Islamophobia, in particular, needs to be addressed in a manner that fosters greater understanding of this religion of peace. He further said that Pakistan would continue to actively participate in all SCO mechanisms to achieve our mutually agreed agenda of regional cooperation. He said that SCO's objectives are in complete harmony with the foreign policy goals of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government. "Our top priority remains friendly relations with all countries of the world, especially in the immediate neighborhood, and strengthened regional cooperation through enhanced connectivity and people to people contacts," he said. Highlighting the importance of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the region, he said that CPEC aims at leveraging the advantages of geography to the maximum benefit of not only Pakistan and China, but the entire region.

He said that the Special Economic Zones under CPEC offer an excellent incentive for investment. "We are confident that other SCO members will also partner with us in realizing the true potential offered by the CPEC," he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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