Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said that the only way for Pakistan and India to move forward was through dialogue.
While addressing a National Conference on Strategic Stability in South Asia in Islamabad, Qureshi said Pakistan needs a "willing and constructive partner to tackle the myriad daunting challenges" that the region is facing.
"A peaceful neighbourhood is the sine qua non [an essential condition] to build prosperous societies," he added.
The foreign minister began his address by noting that recent events were a reminder of the "heavy responsibility" that both Pakistan and India have to bear in working towards addressing the "underlying challenges" to strategic stability in the region.
The two also need to commit to a peaceful environment that is conducive to the socio-economic development and welfare of the people.
Relations between Pakistan and India reached a crisis point in February after a suicide bombing in occupied Kashmir's Pulwama killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary personnel in Kashmir.
India had immediately hurled allegations of Pakistan's involvement, whereas Islamabad strongly rejected the claim and asked for "actionable evidence".
Subsequently, on Feb 26, Indian warplanes violated Pakistani airspace and allegedly struck what New Delhi claimed was a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) training camp — a claim never proved by India.
The next day, Pakistani jets fired at various targets from across the Line of Control. As the Indian Air Force engaged the Pakistani jets, the PAF shot down two Indian warplanes ─ one of which crashed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir ─ and captured an Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan. The pilot was released on March 1 as a gesture of peace by the Pakistani government.
Qureshi today said that the South Asian security environment was in a "state of flux". He said that India's "massive acquisition of conventional arms with offensive doctrines" as well as the expansion of strategic assets were developments which had "serious security implications for Pakistan".
Qureshi said that the recent Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test highlighted Pakistan's concerns on the "military spin-offs" of high technology trade with India.
He said that the country-specific exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) also had negative implications for strategic stability of the region.
The foreign minister added that the introduction of new destabilising weapon systems such as the S-400 anti ballistic missile system could further "accentuate" challenges to strategic stability.
"They can encourage misadventure by an adversary under a false sense of security against a counter-attack," he said.
He noted that the recent "belligerence" displayed against Pakistan as well as the "assumption that Pakistan could be subject to punitive strikes, at will, is a clear manifestation of threats to stability in the region."
Qureshi said that Pakistan was a "peace-loving country," committed to peaceful and normal relations in the neighbourhood. However, he added that they were "equally determined to frustrate any attempt to create a so-called "new normal"."
Approach of international community
Qureshi said that policymakers had seen that the strategic stability of South Asia has been impacted not only by regional developments, but also by the approach of the international community, particularly that of major powers towards the region.
"We hope that key players will recognise the need for an objective and even-handed approach, which is not tainted by considerations of geo-political dominance and defining new regional security paradigms," the foreign minister said.
The foreign minister called on outside parties to be "mindful" of their responsibility in terms of arms supplies to the region in pursuit of their geo-political strategies.
Read: Pak-India stand-off
He said that the designation of states as "net security providers" and bestowing a sense of entitlement on them to pursue capabilities beyond their national security requirments was a "dangerous proposition".
Qureshi said that such notions violated the principles of equal and undiminished security for all that were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
He said Pakistan's conduct as a nuclear-armed state would continue to be defined by restraint and responsibility.
"As we seek to ensure our national security, credible minimum deterrence remains our guiding principle," he said, adding: "We are opposed to a nuclear or conventional arms race in the region."
As per the foreign minister, Pakistan had demonstrated its commitment to peace and stability by putting forward a proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) — premised on three interlocking elements of conflict resolution: nuclear and missile restraint and conventional balance.
He said the proposal remains on the table and if pursued could lay the foundation for a lasting peace and stability in the region.
The foreign minister noted that the Kashmir dispute has remained unresolved for over half a century and said that conflict resolution was the key to any successful strategic stability arrangement in the region.
"It lies at the heart of every crisis between Pakistan and India, including the events in February," Qureshi said, referring to the Kashmir dispute.
He said that the uncertainty underscores the "urgency" of finding a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue.
Qureshi said that India's continued violation of human rights in Indian occupied Kashmir as well the denial of the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris had led to frustration among Kashmiri youth.
"As a result, the freedom struggle in the valley has gained tremendous momentum and the plight of Kashmiris has caught the world’s attention," he said, adding: "What we are witnessing today in Kashmir is the backlash being faced by India due to its atrocities inflicted on Kashmiris."
The foreign minister said that at the last minute, India had postponed a meeting on the Kartarpur corridor that was scheduled for April 2. He said that the meeting had been postponed without seeking Pakistan's views and came after a "productive" technical meeting on Mar 14.
"Our neighbour needs to understand that the only way forward is dialogue and not its suspension," he said.
The minister noted that with the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor, the current Pakistani government has shown that it was ready to take concrete steps to ease tensions and shown its shown it commitment to work towards friendly relations with India.
Qureshi concluded his remarks by reiterating that Pakistan was committed to improving bilateral relations with all neighbours and to building a peaceful and prosperous region.