“The current policies of the United States of America for South Asia can disrupt peace in the region” – President Mamnoon Hussain at the 70th Anniversary Conference of the PIIA.
Donald J Trump’s election to the White House demonstrates the extremely vulgar nature of American society. And it is difficult to disagree with the assessment that the American president really is a “deranged dotard”. Heaven knows, despite the tyrannical nature of his own country, North Korea’s insane “little rocket man” might even be making a valid point when he calls Trump’s sanity into question. Trump’s totally crazy brinkmanship with Pyongyang shows that he is willing to put the safety of billions of people at risk by his recklessness. But perhaps it is all just a charade to deliberately divert attention far away from emerging domestic problems connected to Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Sword of Damocles hanging over Trump and his cronies’ heads, about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin to rig the election. Overall Trump is a sexist and a racist. He never tells the truth and serially dismisses all accusations of sexual misconduct/offending against him. Against American and British interests, he retweets from Britain First – a racist and neo-Nazi organisation.
His hatred of Muslims is so severe that he has even declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Clearly, he is deliberately destabilising the Middle East. Trump is a danger to the world and it is hard to disagree with the soft speaking figure of president Mamnoon Hussain that the present American administration is a threat to peace in South Asia (and indeed the rest of the world). The reckless and inflammatory rhetoric manifested by Trump can only bolster Hindus’ hatred for Muslims in India where killing Muslims for “love jihad” (or having a Hindu girlfriend or boyfriend) is seen as a force for good. In such testing times, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a regional conference which was held last month in Karachi. Esteemed speakers from all walks of life addressed the lively audience. Demand for the conference was so high that additional seating had to be arranged. The president of Pakistan inaugurated the conference and he hoped that regional powers would ensure that peace would be given a chance in South Asia (see full photos). Below are some news reports and video coverage of our hugely successful event.
President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain said this while addressing a seminar, ‘Peace in South Asia’, organised by the PIIA in Karachi on Wednesday. “America is attempting to give an important role to India, which could endanger the stability in this region,” President Hussain said.
Commenting on the Kashmir issue, President Hussain said the Kashmir issue was a stumbling block to peace in the region. “Without resolving the Kashmir issue, peace is a dream in this region,” he said, adding that South Asian region was facing multiple challenges due to geo-political conflicts. “The Cold War, Afghanistan situation and terrorism have compounded many problems affecting socio-economic and geo-political situation in the region,” President Hussain said.
He added that unresolved disputes of Siachen, Sir Creek and Kashmir were major factors for instability in the region. The people of occupied Kashmir had been struggling peacefully for their independence and India, which called them terrorists, had broken records of atrocities against them, President Hussain maintained. He said:
India is crushing the peaceful movement and will add further to the chaos.
Diverting the attention of participants towards the arms race in the region, President Hussain said that due to the prevailing tension between India and Pakistan, both countries’ prime agenda is to acquire more arms and gather military strength rather than prioritising the improvement of their socio-economic condition. President Mamnoon was of the view that citizens of both the countries suffered due to the arms race. He added that the strategic scenario of South Asia had become very complex since India and Pakistan became nuclear powers.
Peace in South Asia has become a dream, President Hussain said. However, he expressed hope that “the regional countries, with cooperation and understanding, can resolve their issues”.
He added that international projects and interventions like the One Belt One Road, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank could play vital role in bridging differences between Pakistan and India. He also stressed the need for bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“A peaceful Afghanistan can play the role to connect Central Asia, South Asia and East Asia,” he said, requesting the international community to come forward and play their role for peace in Afghanistan. President Hussain also called for an active role of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to achieve these objectives.
He suggested that South Asian countries should also form an alliance like Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation for regional cooperation and sustainable development. “Instead of indulging in conflict and war, we should extend cooperation and resolve issues amicably through dialogue,” he summed up.
President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain has said, ‘The destiny of South Asian nations is linked and together they can fight the battle against poverty, unemployment, climate change and militancy and the problems faced by the people,’ he was speaking at “Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges” conference organized by the PIIA to mark their 70th anniversary.
He added that “Deep rooted poverty and social backwardness provide a fertile ground for the growth of extremism and radicalization. With transnational threats on the surge, South Asian neighbors should actively support each other to alleviate poverty and improve Social conditions of their people.
“The lack of access to basic amenities of life increases the possibility of internal conflicts thereby rendering regional states vulnerable to ethnic and sectarian Violence. Peace building efforts, economic cooperation and human security are the least focused areas in South Asia and regional peace has remained hostage to unresolved problems.
“China’s growing interest and investment in the region provides a significant incentive to South Asian countries to draw maximum benefits from various Chinese initiatives relating, to regional connectivity and infrastructure development such as One Belt and One Road (OBOR), CPEC and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB),” he said.
Dr. Masuma Hassan, Chairperson PIIA said:
South Asia is no exception to war and conflict. It is home to some of the most intractable disputes, including that of Kashmir. We have invited scholars from south asia and other countries so that we can discuss the dynamics and factors in pursuit of peace in our region.
Chairman Parliamentary Committee on CPEC, Senator Mushahid Hussain in his keynote address further said that Peace in the region can help us achieve untapped potential of South Asian natural resources while providing employment opportunities to millions of youth and eradicating poverty in the region.
It will also help us wipe out threat existing in the form of problems of water sharing, climate change, environmental degradation. Pakistan is the center of the regional trade and has geostrategic value. CPEC is the centerpiece and flagship in the history of Pakistan.
Scholars from leading think tanks, academia and diplomats in the region were invited to participate in this conference, says a release.
Ms. Devika Mittal, Convener, Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Delhi, India, through video message said about ‘Peace Education in India-Pakistan Context: Praxis and Potentials’ in the same session highlighted that “Focusing specifically on peace education, a lot depends on the attitude of teachers like the school management, towards peace education, its objective and importance,”
“Teacher’s own understanding of these issues is crucial. In the situation of a conflict between a teacher’s understanding and the narrative in textbooks, it will be the teacher who will tend to have an upper hand.”
Naresh Prasad Shrestha, Chairman, Director Institute of Strategic and Socio-Economic Research, Kathmandu, Nepal, spoke about Peace, Connectivity, Trade and Investment in South Asia: A Nepalese Perspective.
The session three was about Informal Diplomacy and Connecting with the People which was chaired by Ambassador Najmuddin Shaikh, while Ambassador Aziz Ahmed Khan, Honorary Vice President, Jinnah Institute, Islamabad, spoke about Informal Diplomacy and Connecting People: Track II Dialogue Process.
Jehan Perera, Chairman, National Peace Council, Colombo, Sri Lanka, spoke about ‘Priority Issues for Reconciliation in Sri Lanka’.
Session four addressed ‘Cooperation on Social Issues’ which chaired by Senator (R) Javed Jabbar while Ms. Mahnaz Rahman, Resident Director, Aurat Foundation, Karachi, delivered speech on ‘Women’s Movement and Peace Building in South Asia’.
One of the main challenges facing Pakistan is the battle of ideas, a battle of narratives and think tanks are pivotal in this regard, said Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed while speaking at a conference organised by the PIIA on Wednesday.
Titled ‘Peace in South Asia: opportunities and challenges’, the aim of the conference was to mark PIIA’s 70th anniversary. Scholars from leading think tanks, academia and diplomats in the region took part in the event.
Senator Mushahid quoted the Quaid-i-Azam on the role and future of Pakistan, stating that it would “be the pivot of the world on which the future geopolitics of the world will revolve. And today, 70 years later, this is true. In fact if you see the geopolitical landscape of the last 50 years, in the most important geopolitical events Pakistan has been the pivotal player. And currently, in the most important diplomatic and developmental initiative of the 21st century the One Belt One Road, Pakistan’s CPEC is the centrepiece to the project.”
Commenting on Pakistan-India relations, Senator Mushahid Hussain called the past few years a “period of missed opportunities”. Responding to a question, he said that a few initiatives needed to be taken to resolve the issues between the two. This involves the “starting of the backchannel between the two countries by trusted and credible interlocutors. India should stop resisting holding of the Saarc summit in Pakistan. And thirdly, it is time to start the tripartite dialogue among Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris.”
Dr Masuma Hassan, chairperson of PIIA, said: “South Asia is no exception to war and conflict. It is home to some of the most intractable disputes, including that of Kashmir. We have invited scholars from South Asia and other countries so that we can discuss the dynamics and factors in pursuit of peace in our region.”
Dr Ishrat Hussain, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, was among the panellists who spoke about regional trade and connectivity. “We need to identify how trade, economic corridors and connectivity, and economic cooperation can lead to a better outcome for the poor populations, considering that this is the only region in the world with the highest number of poor. With malnutrition, hunger and illiteracy rampant, we have a responsibility for our younger generation to be left with a better legacy.”
He said confrontational and adversarial relations between countries would not help us in establishing a better legacy. “The relationship between India and Pakistan has gone on different tangents since 1947. In the next 70 years then we should take a break from what has happened in the past and get on a different track which is looking forward to the prosperity of the region and its people.”
Research, he said, indicated that trade among South Asian countries, especially between India and Pakistan, was a “win-win proposition. It is not going to be a zero-sum game where India benefits and Pakistan loses or vice versa.”
Naresh Prasad Shrestha, director of the Institute of Strategic and Socio-economic Research, Kathmandu, Nepal, spoke about peace, connectivity, trade and investment in South Asia with a Nepalese perspective. “Nepal believes in economic development within the country and beyond and we have been supporting all international communities. And we would like you to realise and use our experiences.”
Apart from the economic front, the social front was also discussed at the conference with Aftab Nabi, former director general of the National Police Bureau, Islamabad, and the Sindh IGP, shedding light on human and narcotics trafficking.
He explained how human trafficking was such a covert affair and so it was difficult to identify all those involved as well as be able to get the actual figures. “So we can assess the nature of the problem through figures pertaining to deportation which are 100 per cent accurate. Data is very crucial in this respect.
“As far as the origins of the persons who were deported from different provinces, the situation in 2010 was from Punjab it was 67pc, Sindh 15pc, KP 14pc, and Balochistan 4pc. In 2011, there was a sudden rise in Sindh to 24pc. These figures and more allow us to assess the dimension of the problem and tackle it.”
Mehnaz Rahman of the Aurat Foundation brought women to the fore in her talk on women’s movement and peace building in South Asia. “Why must we focus on women in peace building? The answer is that in South Asian cultures women are the central caretakers of families and everyone by default suffers when women are victimised, oppressed and excluded from peace building. Their centrality in communal life makes their involvement essential.”
The conference was spread over two days and speakers shed light on a variety of topics, including nuclear security in South Asia and ways to combat terrorism.
On the second day of the international conference on ‘Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges’ organised by the PIIA, a more grave tone was adopted by speakers regarding the trajectory of the country with regards to internal and external disputes, resource management and distribution, security and terrorism-related issues, as well as how to settle inter-state disputes, several of which Pakistan is currently part of.
With nuclear security a pressing issue considering escalating tensions between Pakistan and its neighbouring countries, former senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Anita Nilsson emphasised on the need for restraint and confidence-building measures by the country. She said:
Security measures enable the continued use of nuclear power for energy; it encourages trust and is a way forward.
“What are the opportunities and challenges for peace and development with regards to Pakistan? One important thing in this regard is the clarification of the scope of the different kinds of activities and recognise the value if a full separation is done between the military programme and the civil sector use of nuclear material. This is something that could and would facilitate development and cooperation.”
Another suggestion she put forward is to show credible clarity in how different materials are used. “It would not generate a feeling or assumption that there is a spillover from the military sector to the civil sector or vice versa.”
Ambassador Munir Akram spoke about Pakistan’s security paradigm in a nuclear dimension and explained why Pakistan becoming a nuclear power was essential to its survival. He explained how there was at present a lot of talk about Pakistan becoming more Islamic and questions raised about the safety of the bomb within the borders, but there was little talk about India becoming more Hindu. At present, he opined, the confidence with which India claims it can target Pakistan’s arsenal indicates a strong backing from the US under the current administration which is increasingly isolating Pakistan.
He also warned of an India-Pakistan conflict that could escalate beyond control, thereby warning those present that the country was in a state of crisis. The most likely danger of a nuclear crisis arises from, he believes, revolt of the people of occupied Kashmir and India’s massive suppression of the revolt; India’s increasing violations of the 2003 Line of Control ceasefire as well as its constant threats to launch surgical strikes or start a limited war, or a ‘cold start’ attack against Pakistan.
Water issues faced by Pakistan on the domestic and international fronts were also discussed at the conference, and Ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel carefully outlined the various ways in which Pakistan was dependent for its supply of water.
As for the Indus Waters Treaty (see here), he reiterated the need several times that with the evolution of international law, India and Pakistan needed to comprehensively, and with the help of scientifically credible studies, address the various loopholes and omissions in the treaty. Kakakhel said:
There are a number of issues in the treaty. As this treaty was negotiated in the 1950s, international law at the time was in its infancy. Some of the issues not clear are concerning the water share of the rivers. It also has some references to the quality of water, but it lacks elaborate provisions about ensuring pollution control in the rivers. And of course what about the impacts of climate change which is in fact water change because the one sector which will see the most dramatic manifestations is the water supply.
Many speakers at the conference reiterated that despite Pakistanis being known to be extremely hospitable the world over, with regards to foreign relations with its neighbours there is no positive progress. Thus, it is time to reflect upon and address the concerns raised to make Pakistan more integrated economically and with regards to it foreign relations.
Recommendations put forth in the two-day conference, insisted the speakers, should be collected and taken to the higher levels of the government for the benefit of the country and its citizens.
President Mamnoon Hussain here on Wednesday called for turning the platform of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) effective through strong regional connectivity and people to people contact. addressing a conference on Peace in South Asia, organized by the PIIA, he said the region home to around 1.7 billion, representing 21pc of the world population, is in urgent need of peace. The President said:
South Asia is mired in several crisis and conflicts at the moment due to various unresolved political and geographical factors.
Mentioning that the situation was getting all the more complex due to India’s ongoing arms build-up, instability in Afghanistan and the menace of terrorism, he said the situation can be aptly tackled through regional cooperation and settling of longstanding disputes.
“I believe that the whole region of South Asia is in search for peace and prosperity, however, these have become elusive due to war and conflicts,” regretted President Mamnoon Hussain.
He reiterated that destiny of the people in region was linked with each other and it is only through mutual cooperation that they can fight poverty, unemployment, climate change, militancy and other public issues.
President Mamnoon Hussain on the occasion also urged the South Asian countries to create conducive environment for peace and mutual cooperation by taking advantage of One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative,in particular context of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Services offered by Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) alongwith OBOR and CPEC will help the region attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), presently quite low as compared to other regions,” he said.
SAARC’s failure to emerge as unifying multilateral organization due to hegemonistic aspirations of a member state, he said has also kept the region hostage to poverty, social backwardness, extremism and radicalization largely manifested through regional instability.
“It is imperative to sincerely promote mutual cooperation to alleviate poverty and improve social condition of the people of South Asia in general,” said the President of Pakistan warning that otherwise strife and conflict would persist leading chaos, violence, crimes and terrorism.
Urging countries in the region to avoid fanning regional differences and take concrete measures for liberalization of visa policy (for business purpose), he said this would propel economic growth in the region and help meet the challenge of poverty along with associated implications.
President Mamnoon Hussain said South Asian countries also need to evolve unity on the pattern of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ensure durable progress in the region.
Reiterating that Pakistan believes in promoting regional cooperation and institution building for resolving the security issues of South Asia, he said the platform of SCO was also available for achieving regional integration. President Mamnoon Hussain on the occasion particularly referred to Afghanistan emphasizing that along with promoting economic cooperation and regional connectivity there was also a need to focus on stabilizing Afghanistan.
“Turmoil in Afghanistan has worsened the matters giving rise to multifaceted security issues in the region,” he said reminding that only a stable Afghanistan could become a great transit corridor connecting Central, South and West Asia.
The President did not mince his words in mentioning that unresolved conflicts of Jammu and Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen were the major obstacles in achieving stability in South Asia.
The deteriorating situation in Kashmir, consequent to India’s absolute disregard towards the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir had adversely affected the regional peace, he said.
“Kashmiris in the Indian occupied state are engaged in a legitimate struggle to exercise their right to self-determination, also guaranteed under the UN Security Council’s resolutions,” said President Mamnoon Hussain.
The session was also addressed by Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Defence and Defence Production, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed and Dr Masuma Hasan, PIIA Chairperson.