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ISLAMABAD: While predicting a new “Cold War” among the major powers, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Thursday, said that Pakistan has decided not to be a part of any global or regional conflict, and has chosen to be a partner only in peace and development.

Speaking at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) at an event titled, “A Peaceful and Prosperous South Asia”, Qureshi said Pakistan is calling for inclusive and cooperative approaches based on enhanced economic partnerships.

Highlighting Pakistan’s vision for peace and development in the region, he said that the country’s primary interest is in seeking a peaceful and stable international order that takes everyone on board.

He said that pursuing enhanced cooperation in trade and investment, infrastructure development, energy security, agriculture, tourism, and people-to-people exchanges are top priorities of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

He said that Pakistan will remain committed to peaceful co-existence, cooperative multilateralism, and consensus-driven outcomes.

“We will always support an inclusive global order, for advancing the shared objectives of peace, progress and prosperity in the region and beyond,” he added.

Qureshi stated that the world is transforming and multilateralism is being undercut by unilateralism, while countries are returning to nationalistic agendas and power projection is becoming a new normal.

He added that there is accelerated competition between major powers, and a drift towards confrontation.

“This can lead to new rivalries and push the world again into “bloc” politics. A new “Cold War” seems to be taking shape,” he said, adding that arms build-ups and weaponisation of new and emerging technologies is transforming the nature of future warfare.

He further warned that introduction of offensive weapon systems, provocative doctrines, and aggressive force postures are increasing risks of an inadvertent escalation and military misadventures, undermining the already fragile strategic stability in our region.

He asserted that mutually agreed restraints on nuclear capabilities and conventional forces remain indispensable for strategic stability in South Asia. In South Asia, home to nearly one-fourth of human population, Qureshi stated that notions of “net-security provider” are being advanced to utter disregard of legitimate political, economic and security interests of other countries in the region. Notwithstanding historical, cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and geographical linkages between its peoples, South Asia remains mired in disputes, hostilities, and mistrust, he added.

He said that Jammu and Kashmir is one of the oldest disputes on the United Nations agenda that still awaits resolution according to the wishes of the brave people of Kashmir. “The dispute can conflagrate into a nuclear flashpoint to the detriment of regional and global security,” he warned.

He said that the region has also been witnessing border stand-off between China and India, border dispute between Nepal and India, and water dispute between Bangladesh and India.

He said that Sri Lanka has endured 25 years of the bloodiest insurgency in its history, while Afghanistan has lived through four decades of conflict.

“We need to put human security at the centre of national security strategies: a departure from security-centric polices to move the region towards development and prosperity. This is the real challenge that South Asia faces today,” he said, adding that Pakistan has shifted its focus to geo-economics.

He said that connectivity is the new buzz word, which can provide us enormous opportunities for national and regional development.

He pointed out that Pakistan offers the shortest route to international seas for the Western parts of China and the Central Asian Republics, through the Karachi and Gwadar ports. “The transformational China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a hallmark of Pakistan’s all-weather strategic cooperative partnership with China – is the ideal connectivity project. Besides contributing to Pakistan’s economic transformation, [the] CPEC is poised to revolutionise regional connectivity,” he added.

He said that regional cooperation is a must for South Asia to prosper, adding that SAARC needs to be revitalised by freeing it from narrow political agendas. “Unfortunately, intra-regional trade remains low and concrete progress is required to overcome trade barriers, infrastructural deficits, and connectivity constraints,” he lamented.

Like many other countries, he added that Pakistan is challenged by several non-traditional security issues including, climate change, food, energy, and water crisis, population bulge, unbridled urbanisation as well as poverty exacerbated by structural issues of the economy. He said that the most pressing area of concern is climate change and its direct impact on food and water security, adding that the current government recognises the gravity of this threat to national security and is making efforts to mitigate its effects. “We are living in an age of narratives.

Forming and disseminating narratives of Pakistan is a national responsibility of all of us. To bridge the gap between policy-makers and academics and present consensus-driven narratives, forums such as Islamabad Conclave can play an important role,” he asserted.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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