PM urges India to pledge not to use force under any circumstances

Published October 1, 2015
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly.—AFP
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly.—AFP

NEW YORK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged India on Wednesday to pledge with Pakistan not to use force or the threat of force under any circumstances.

The prime minister used his address to the UN General Assembly to propose four peace measures, which include demilitarising of Kashmir and an unconditional withdrawal of troops from Siachen.

“Our peoples need peace to prosper. Peace can be achieved through dialogue, not disengagement,” he said.

Mr Sharif said the steps he was suggesting in this “new peace initiative” were “the simplest to implement”:

“One, Pakistan and India formalise and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir.”

For this purpose, he called for the expansion of the UN Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan to monitor the observance of the ceasefire.

“Two, Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances.”

This was, he said, a central element of the UN Charter.

“Three, steps be taken to demilitarise Kashmir.”

“Four, agree to an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battleground.”

The prime minister said that an easing of threat perceptions through such efforts would make it possible for Pakistan and India to address the peril posed by offensive and advanced weapons systems.

Vows to fight terrorism in all its forms

“Pakistan neither wants to, nor is it engaged in, an arms race in South Asia,” he declared. “We cannot, however, remain oblivious to the evolving security dynamics and arms build-up in our region, which obliges us to take essential steps to maintain our security.”

Mr Sharif said that as a responsible nuclear weapon state, Pakistan will continue to support the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

“We have maintained the highest standards of nuclear security and have established an effective regime to ensure the safety and security of our nuclear facilities and stocks,” he said.

“South Asia needs strategic stability and this requires serious dialogue to achi­eve nuclear restraint, conventional balance and conflict resolution,” he added.

Although the prime minister used his speech to highlight the Kashmir issue more forcefully than it has been done in the recent past, the underlying message was peace, and not further escalation of tensions, as both Indian and Pakistani media had speculated.

As media reports on both sides of the India-Pakistan border had claimed, the address focused on the Kashmir dispute, but it was not a single-issue speech.

Mr Sharif started with a reference to the UN’s past, its objectives and how it had fulfilled some of its goals and failed in others. He then moved on to climate change, peacekeeping and other similar issues.

The first reference to Kashmir came when the prime minister spoke about how Muslims were suffering across the world, including Palestinians and Kashmiris who were oppressed by foreign occupation.

The prime minister noted that in 1997 when the Composite Dialogue was launched with India, both sides agreed this would encompass two principal items: Kashmir and Peace and Security, along with six other issues, including terrorism.

“The primacy and urgency of addressing these two issues is even more compelling today. Consultations with Kashmiris, who are an integral part of the dispute, are essential to evolving a peaceful solution,” he said.

Mr Sharif noted that since 1947, the Kashmir dispute has remained unresolved and relevant UN Security Council resolutions too have remained unimplemented

“Three generations of Kashmiris have only seen broken promises and brutal oppression. Over 100,000 have died in their struggle for self-determination,” the prime minister noted. “This is the most persistent failure of the United Nations.”

Mr Sharif said that when he assumed office in June 2013, for the third time, one of his first priorities was to normalise relations with India.

“I reached out to the Indian leadership to emphasise that our common enemy was poverty and underdevelopment. Coopera­tion, not confrontation, should define our relationship,” he said.

But India ignored his gestures and today ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary were intensifying, causing civilian deaths including women and children, Mr Sharif said.

The prime minister also blamed India for fomenting troubles in Pakistan.

“Wisdom dictates that our immediate neighbour refrains from fomenting instability in Pakistan. The two countries should address and resolve the causes of tension and take all possible measures to avert further escalation,” he said.

Mr Sharif said that an easing of threat perceptions through such peace efforts will make it possible for Pakistan and India to agree on a broad range of measures to address the peril posed by offensive and advanced weapons systems.

“We look forward to playing our part to build a brighter era of peace and prosperity in South Asia. We owe it to our people and to succeeding generations,” Mr Sharif said.

Speaking on another issue, which has further strained Pakistan’s relations with India, the prime minister said Pakistan supported a comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including that of the Security Council, but was against creating more permanent UNSC members.

“We need a Security Council that is more democratic, representative, accountable and transparent,” he said, disagreeing with India, which wants to become a permanent member of the UNSC with veto powers.

“A council that reflects the interests of all member states, in accordance with the principle of sovereign equality. Not a council, which is an expanded club of the powerful and privileged,” Mr Sharif explained.

TERRORISM: The prime minister reminded the world body that Pakistan was the primary victim of terrorism and had lost thousands of civilians and soldiers to terrorist violence.

“We will fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, irrespective of who their sponsors are,” he declared, while reminding the General Assembly that Zarb-i-Azb was the largest anti-terrorism campaign against terrorists anywhere, involving over 180,000 troops.

The prime minister argued that besides taking military action, the narrative of the terrorists also has to be countered through the just resolution of the several instances of oppression and injustice against Muslims in various parts of the world.

“Unfortunately, some seek to use the global campaign against terrorism to suppress the legitimate right of occupied peoples to self-determination,” he said.

In the Middle East, he said, several countries were today the vortex of conflict and instability while others were being sucked into this quagmire.

“The tragedy of Palestine has intensified. The accepted avenue for peace between Palestine and Israel – a two-state solution – appears further away today than ever before, due to the intransigent stance of the occupying power,” he noted.

The prime minister welcomed the comprehensive nuclear agreement reached between Iran and six major world powers.

TIES WITH AFGHANISTAN: Mr Sharif said that in response to the request from the Afghan government and with the support of the international community, Pakistan made strenuous efforts to facilitate the process of Afghan reconciliation.

“But it was unfortunate that certain developments stalled the process. Thereafter, militant attacks intensified, which we unequivocally condemn,” he said.

The prime minister said Pakis­tan will persist in the endeavour to help resume the dialogue process and promote peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“We can, however, do so only if we receive the required cooperation from the Afghan government. Tensions between Afgha­nistan and Pakistan are in neither country’s interests,” he said.

The prime minister also welcomed China’s proactive role in promoting peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and in the larger region.

“The China-Pakistan Econo­mic Corridor, announced during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan earlier this year will spur regional economic integration and bring prosperity to the entire region and beyond,” he said.

He also welcomed Russia’s greater focus on Asian cooperation.

Published in Dawn October 1st, 2015

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