Sartaj sees arms race in S. Asia after India-US agreements

Published January 30, 2015
Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.—AFP/File
Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.—AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top diplomat warned on Thursday of renewed arms race in South Asia after the United States and India this week reached a nuclear trade breakthrough this week, besides signing a number of agreements for cooperation in defence, security, space and high technologies.

“Pakistan is examining the imbalance (likely to be caused by these agreements) and the possible ways and means for redressing it,” Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said while addressing a seminar on implications of President Obama’s second visit to New Delhi organised by an Islamabad-based think tank — Strategic Vision Institute.

Take a look: Indo-US nuclear deal will negatively impact South Asia: Sartaj Aziz

In a statement issued on Tuesday in reaction to the India-US agreements, Mr Aziz had voiced concern about the adverse impact of the accords on the region’s strategic stability and deterrence and pledged to take all measures to safeguard national interests.

The adviser says US ignored Pakistan’s concerns conveyed before President Obama’s visit to India

“Pakistan’s key concern is the paramount importance of strategic stability in South Asia,” Mr Aziz said at the seminar and called on the US and other members of the international community to support the objective of regional balance and strategic stability.

He said that India’s military build-up through large-scale acquisition of arms from US and Russia; expansion of fissile material production facilities; and quest for advanced technology for missile and related delivery systems would accentuate the already existing conventional and nuclear imbalance in South Asia.

The worsening of the strategic imbalance at a time of the heightened Pak-India tensions, particularly due to Indian ceasefire violations along the LoC and Working Boundary, he said was extremely worrisome.

The US, he said, ignored concerns of the Pakistan government though Pakistan had “forcefully” conveyed to the US even before President Barack Obama’s visit to India. The US was asked to “take a comprehensive view of strategic imbalance in South Asia and avoid any steps that may jeopardise the region’s strategic stability”.

Mr Aziz also sought to address some of the pessimism at home caused by the reinvigoration of India-US strategic partnership and tried to drive home the point that not all was lost.

The US support for India’s candidature for UN Security Council permanent membership and export control regimes, he said, should not be implied as India’s automatic entry into these privileged forums.

Secondly, he claimed, the Pak-US relationship was now based on stronger footing than before because of policy changes vis-à-vis terrorism and relations with Afghanistan undertaken by the government for protecting national interest, but ones that also suited to US requirements.

In Mr Aziz’s assessment, the US wanted to assign India a special regional role in eastern part of Asia, but Pakistan was on the other side — the Western part of Asia. Therefore, he contended, the Pakistan’s role in the region would remain unaffected.

“As one of a few stable and well-functioning states in the Muslim world, Pakistan’s role in promoting stability and facilitating connectivity is … indispensable and well recognised not only by the US, but also by Russia and China,” he claimed.

(In a related development, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry held a briefing session for envoys of five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union countries on regional developments and Kashmir.

During the briefing, the secretary reiterated Pakistan’s concern on those aspects of the President Obama’s visit to India, which had regional and global implications, including strategic imbalance in South Asia. This was the first time the Pakistani government formally conveyed its reaction to other countries.)

Speaking at the seminar, SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said the growing US-India partnership promoted their economic and strategic interests, but concurrently undermined Pakistan’s national security and regional stability.

Nuclear expert retired Brig Naeem Salik said in his presentation that although Mr Obama’s India visit was high on symbolism, it still had serious implications for the region.

In view of the aggravating conventional and nuclear imbalance, Pakistan, he believed, could increasingly rely on nuclear deterrence and the threshold could significantly go down.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2015

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