WASHINGTON: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal urged the United States on Wednesday not to look at CPEC from the Indian perspective as it was an economic plan for bringing peace and stability to South Asia and adjacent regions and not a security strategy.
At a separate meeting on Tuesday evening, Pakistan’s ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary said that recent meetings between US and Pakistani officials have paved the way for the process to normalise relations between the two countries.
Mr Iqbal urged the United States to deal with Pakistan on its own merit, instead of tagging it to other states and issues in the region.
“CPEC is not a conspiracy against anyone. It is not a security plan. It’s a plan for economic prosperity, which is bringing investment in the energy, infrastructure and other key sectors,” said Mr Iqbal when reminded of US objections to the plan to build a corridor.
Defence Secretary James Mattis last week said the CPEC passes through disputed territory and the United States could not ignore this fact. This was seen in Islamabad as a direct endorsement of India’s position on the project, which passes through Pakistan’s northern areas. India insists that since the northern part of Pakistan was once associated with the former Kashmir state, it’s a disputed territory. Pakistan rejects the Indian claim.
However, Mr Iqbal, who was the keynote speaker at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, said US concerns about CPEC were unfounded. “It will benefit all and will provide a platform for bringing together South and Central Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries by physically joining them through an economic corridor,” he said.
“So, I think, the US should not look at CPEC from the Indian perspective, but as a source for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. CPEC can bring the much-needed stability to a region that has suffered from war for the last several decades.”
Mr Iqbal said Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan because it would be the first beneficiary of peace and stability in the neighbouring state. He reminded the international community that so far Pakistan was the only country that had the valuable experience of defeating terrorism in its backyard and it could share this experience with others.
The minister said Pakistan had serious concerns about the presence and steady growth of the militant Islamic State group in its neighbourhood and wanted to defeat them too with the cooperation of other nations.
“But Pakistan is also a sovereign nation. We have our own dignity and want others to respect that,” he said. “If the US looks at the region from India’s perspective, it will harm the region and US interests too. So, it’s necessary that the US should view the situation from an independent perspective, not from someone else’s point of view.”
Viewing Pakistan from someone else’s perspective would create complications and only terrorists would benefit from it, he added.
Asked to comment on media reports that the World Bank group might not support Pakistan if it sought another economic package from the IMF, Mr Iqbal said: “I think all such talks are speculative. Pakistan has a particular role to play. Pakistan is an important country and it cannot be ignored.”
Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2017