PIIA Seminar on Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in the Asia-Pacific region and Pakistan: Press Coverage

Ambassador Salman Bashir said Modi has tarnished India’s reputation as a secular democracy

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs recently hosted a Seminar and Webinar titled, “Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities for Pakistan” which was personally attended by former ambassadors, members of the armed forces of Pakistan, members of the judiciary, academicians, eminent scholars, and members of the PIIA. The event was live-streamed on Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook. We provide a roundup of the news reports on the seminar. 

Retired Lt Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi, who inaugurated the event, said in his address that Pakistan had always punched above its weight. “We have always been involved in somebody else’s game, somebody else’s war, considering ourselves as the key player in those events. In pre-colonial times we were fighting the Russian Empire, fighting for the British or fighting for somebody or the other. After independence there were times when we were looking at CENTO and sometimes at SEATO, and then we saw ourselves in the middle of the Gulf War, in the global war on terrorism, etc … while Kashmir burns. “So what is the way? One way is that we become an island and look after ourselves or [the other way is] become part of the global discourse and be relevant. There are some things that we cannot ignore and Asia-Pacific is one such thing,” he said.

‘Time to stop sitting on the fence’

Gen Ghazi, who had served as the defence secretary after his retirement from the army, continued: “We need to understand the environment in which changes are now taking place. We are reverting from uni-polarity. There are failing powers, realignments, shifting power centres and the emergence of other powers. What this chaos does is that it creates stress on the global system. This stress is especially felt by the powers that are actually failing; one of them is the US which finds itself receding [power]. Since US hegemony is eroding, as the erosion takes place there’s a reaction against it. What defines it [reaction] is the arrogance and hubris of the US, which tries to justify it by creating bogeys. The US can, but will not do, is to show some humility and come to terms with the loss of this power — and accept the rise of China by finding ways of transition peacefully. This will not happen and a piece of evidence is the [recent] US strategic framework for Indo-Pacific.”

With respect to Pakistan, in his detailed analysis, the general remarked:

It’s time for us to stop sitting on the fence. 

In the pre-lunch session, two eminent speakers expressed their views on the subject.

Former foreign secretary Salman Bashir was the first one who spoke online. He said: “We are witnessing changes of historic import. These changes are taking place on a civilisational scale. They are not episodic, but are very deep and will have an impact on world history. We should keep our eyes on the fundamentals. The centre of gravity of world politics has shifted to the Asia-Pacific. This has prompted reactions. Some of them are: can the rise of China be stopped, contained or reversed? Is China attempting to be a dominant power in the world? Is the West, specifically the US, equipped to out-compete China? Would the 20th century Cold War toolbox work in the 21st century?”

The diplomat said in his view the answer to all of the queries is ‘no’. Yes, he pointed out, China does bring positives to humanity at large. [But] the strategic thought in western hemisphere continues to put premium on outdated power politics. Geopolitics is no longer workable because of the deep transformations that have taken place the world over. The key drivers of change are demography, technology and globalisation.

‘US using Cold War toolbox against China’

Mr Bashir said political and economic systems have now started to fade. The rise of politics of identity, racism, xenophobia, extremism and white supremacy signify a deeper malaise. This can’t be fixed by the tools of geopolitics. The US is using Cold War toolbox against China. India has joined the anti-China venture as a junior partner. The Indo-Pacific US strategy is based on Indo-US defence partnership. It has consequences for Pakistan. The anti-China tirade has bipartisan support in the US. “China has no design of global domination in the western sense,” he said. Talking of India, Mr Bashir said:

Modi has tarnished India’s reputation as a secular democracy and it is going to get worse.

The second speaker, retired Rear Admiral Pervaiz Asghar, said in most recent terms Indo-Pacific can broadly be considered as Asia-Pacific maritime equivalent. The Trump administration from its early days preferred to use the term Indo-Pacific in lieu of Asia-Pacific. It formalised it on May 30, 2018 by renaming the US-Pacific command as Indo-Pacific command. Its defence secretary clarified the renaming had been done due to the increasing connectivity between Indian and Pacific oceans. “Indo-Pacific command is more definitive in its construct.”

He then shed light on India-US partnership and the agreements that have been signed in the last few decades between them, allowing India, among other things, to have access to US intelligence data. He said that: 

From Pakistan’s perspective, this is bad news. Having a large, unfriendly neighbour was bad enough; now that it’s teamed up with the biggest military in the world is a disaster.

Earlier, PIIA chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan welcomed the guests and informed them about the PIIA, which she said is the oldest think tank of the country.

The post-lunch session had two more speakers lined up: Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry, the director general of Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, and Prof Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has stated that India is increasingly becoming an irresponsible nuclear state and the whole world is noticing that India is crossing all lines.

He was speaking at the seminar on “Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities for Pakistan” organized by PIIA on Wednesday, 4 February 2021. 

The event was inaugurated by Lt. Gen. (R) Tariq Waseem Ghazi.

Ambassador Salman Bashir, former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and High Commissioner of Pakistan to India, and Rear Admiral (R) Pervaiz Asghar, Adviser and Honorary Fellow, National Centre for Maritime Policy Research, Bahria University, also spoke on the occasion.

The sessions were chaired by Dr. Masuma Hasan, Chairperson PIIA, and Ambassador Syed Hasan Habib.

Aizaz, who is Director General Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, added that India under Modi is losing its image.

“India is thinking short term and Pakistan has to counter India’s hegemonic approach and design,” said Aizaz, adding that power competition in the region is not to end in the near future.

The topic of his lecture was “Major Power Competition: Opportunities for Pakistan”. He said that Pakistan will be in a tight spot if a cold war between the United States and China erupts.

“If economic war between US and China intensifies Pakistan will be called upon to make a choice. But Pakistan should bilateralis the context with US,” said Aizaz.

He added that Pakistan can bridge the gap between the US and China by changing its approach from geo-strategic to geo-economic interests as partnership with Pakistan will be extremely important for the US.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, said that US has declared India its major strategic partner while ignoring other key players of the region. Jaspal said:

In October last year the US stated that US is very careful about India’s sovereignty thus supports India. The US stated that India acted in self-defence regarding Balakot incident.

He said that South Asia is a nuclear flashpoint and India-Pakistan clash can have very serious consequences for both the countries and for the world.

Jaspal in his lecture “The South Asian Landscape: Options for Pakistan” asserted that South Asia is being affected by India’s hegemonic policies.

“Religious Majoritarianism (Hindutva) has become a big threat and it is along with hyper realist elements to decide South Asia’s future.

“On the diplomatic front, India is isolated now… . India’s survival is on anti-Pakistan stance as Modi termed the February 27th incident as act of war from Pakistan,” said Jaspal.

Talking about options for Pakistan, he said that Pakistan has to settle issues concerning its borders while on the economic front China’s increasing investment in South Asia is to help Pakistan.

Acting Vice Chancellor of University of Karachi, Professor Dr Khalid Iraqi, said China is a major competitor of United States (US) in global market and to cope with the issue America is making alliances with new partners like Japan, the Philippines and South Korea

He said Kashmir has been a focal point of conflict between Pakistan and India.

“Pakistan has to engage India in dialogue which is the only way forward to settle down the issues between the two countries,” he added.

Former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has said India is increasingly becoming an irresponsible nuclear state and the entire world is noticing that India is crossing all lines.

He was speaking at a seminar on “Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities for Pakistan”, organised by the PIIA. The event was inaugurated by Lt-Gen (retd) Tariq Waseem Ghazi. The chief guest of the event was Vice Chancellor Karachi University Prof Dr Khalid Iraqi. Ambassador Salman Bashir, former foreign secretary of Pakistan and high commissioner of Pakistan to India, and Rear Admiral (retd) Pervaiz Asghar, adviser and honorary fellow, National Centre for Maritime Policy Research, Bahria University, also spoke on the occasion.

The sessions were chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, chairperson of the PIIA, and Ambassador Syed Hasan Habib. Aizaz, who is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, and former foreign secretary of Pakistan, added that India under Modi was losing its image. “India is thinking short term and Pakistan has to counter India’s hegemonic approach and design,” said Aizaz, adding that power competition in the region was not to end in the near future. The topic of his lecture was “Major Power Competition: Opportunities for Pakistan”. He said Pakistan would be in a tight spot if a cold war between the United States and China erupted. “If the economic war between the US and China intensifies, Pakistan will be called upon to make a choice. But Pakistan should bilateralise the context with the US,” said Aizaz. He added that Pakistan can bridge the gap between the US and China by changing its approach from geo-strategic to geo-economic interests as partnership with Pakistan would be extremely important for the US. Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, said that the US had declared India its major strategic partner while ignoring other key players of the region. “In October last year, the US stated that US is very careful about India’s sovereignty, thus supports India. The US stated that India acted in self-defence regarding the Balakot incident,” said Jaspal.

He said South Asia was a nuclear flashpoint and an India- Pakistan clash could have very serious consequences for both the countries and for the world. Jaspal in his lecture ‘The South Asian Landscape: Options for Pakistan’, he asserted that South Asia was being affected by India’s hegemonic policies. “Religious Majoritarianism (Hinduvta) has become a big threat and it is along with hyperrealist elements to decide South Asia’s future. “On the diplomatic front, India is isolated now. And Pakistan is no more a terrorist-breeding nation. India’s survival is on anti-Pakistan stance as Modi termed the February 27th incident as act of war from Pakistan,” said Jaspal. Talking about options for Pakistan, he said Pakistan had to settle issues concerning its borders, while on the economic front, China’s increasing investment in South Asia was to help Pakistan.

Vice Chancellor, University of Karachi, Dr. Khalid Mehmood Iraqi on Wednesday said that today the world was witnessing a geo-political competition between United States and China.

Addressing as a chief guest at a seminar “Emerging Geo strategic Contestation in Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities for Pakistan” organised by the PakistanInstitute of International Affairs (PIIA), he said that experts on international relations termed this power struggle as new cold war, though different from the previous one between US and Soviet Union.

Dr. Khalid Mehmood Iraqi said this cold war was different in terms of nature and theatre. In term of nature the war was no more about capitalism versus communism and in term of theatre it was no more about Europe, it was about Asia, the South East Asia and this region particularly. There was change in term of nature and in term of theatre.

He said that the definition of power globally had changed. Now the power was on the basis of economic strength rather than the nuclear bombs or the weapons. China and USA were the major competitors in the global market.

The vice chancellor said that the race was about more economic opportunities. The Americans were making alliances with India, Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Australia.

They were increasing their naval power, naval strength.

He said that recently a quadrilateral agreement between US, India, Japan and Australia had been signed and then they had Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) which was an American initiative to protect their interest.

The KU VC said that foreign policies were not formulated on the basis of public opinion rather they were formulated on the basis of rational and reasons.

Discussing the options to protect Pakistan‘s national interests, he said the One Belt One Roadinitiative under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) should be the focus as it provided connectivity and opportunity for more economic collaboration with other nations.

Dr Khaild opined that Pakistan could play a important role in this region in terms of Afghan peace talks. “We have been in front in confronting the terrorism in this region. Peace in Afghanistan is directly linked to peace in Pakistan and the peace in the region as well.”Earlier, the seminar was also addressed by chairperson PIIA Dr. Masuma Hassan, Ambassador Salman Bashir, Adviser and Honorary Fellow, National Centre for Maritime Policy Research, Bahria University Rear Admiral (Retd.) Pervaiz Asghar, Ambassador Syed Hasan Habib, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad and others.

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Filed under China, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, United States

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