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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said South Asia’s peace and stability is being undermined by imprudent actions of global powers alongside certain unwelcome developments in the region.

“We have also been witness to how strategic stability in South Asia can be impacted not only by regional developments but also by the approach of international community, in particular that of the major powers, towards the region,” the foreign minister said at a conference organised by Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) on Wednesday.

Mr Qureshi asked the world powers to “be mindful of their responsibility in terms of arms supplies to the region in pursuit of their geo-political strategies” and avoid designations like “net security providers” for states, which encouraged them to acquire capabilities beyond genuine national security requirements. This, he maintained, was a dangerous proposition.

Patronising Indian military beyond national security requirements undermines regional stability, says Qureshi

The foreign minister did not name any global power for being responsible for unstable regional security environment. However, his reference to India’s modernisation of its forces through massive acquisition of conventional arms, adoption of offensive doctrines like Cold Start, expansion of strategic assets including nuclear submarines, introduction of anti-ballistic missile systems, anti-satellite test, exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and S-400 anti-ballistic missile system, showed that he was talking about all countries patronising Indian actions. The support of world powers for Indian military acquisitions and technological advancements in disregard of proliferation concerns, he said, had serious security implications for Pakistan and also undermined regional stability.

“They can encourage misadventure by an adversary under a false sense of security against a counterattack,” the foreign minister maintained and expressed the hope that the world would “recognise the need for objective and even-handed approach which is not tainted by considerations of geo-political dominance and defining new regional security paradigms”.

Recent military stand-off after the Pulwama incident was a clear manifestation of threats to stability in the region, he said. However, the restraint shown by Pakistan proved that the country was committed to peaceful and normal relations with its neighbours, he said, adding the foreign policy would continue to be defined by “restraint and responsibility”. The hallmark of Pakistani policy would be continued adherence to credible minimum deterrence, and opposition to nuclear or conventional arms race, the foreign minister said.

However, he made it clear that despite its quest for peace, Pakistan was equally determined to frustrate any attempt to create a so-called “new normal”.

The foreign minister highlighted the need for conflict resolution in the region as a guarantee of peace and stability. “The abiding threat to the long-term peace and stability of this region emanates from the Kashmir dispute that has remained unresolved for more than half a century. It lies at the heart of every crisis between Pakistan and India, including the events in February,” he maintained. Renewing the call for dialogue on outstanding issues, he said Pakistan needed “a willing and constructive partner to tackle myriads of daunting challenges that beset our region including disease, poverty, illiteracy, climate change and environmental degradation”.

The Kartarpur corridor inauguration, he said, was a manifestation of Pakistan’s desire for better ties with India. About Indian action of postponing the April 2 round of negotiations on the Kartarpur corridor agreement, he expressed the hope that the people of India would soon realise the way forward was dialogue and not its suspension.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, who has also been a defence academic, said India engaged in dangerous brinksmanship after Pulwama because of Pakistan’s defensive response to Indian aggression in the past including Line of Control violations. Pakistan’s firm response to Indian aggression alongside the de-escalatory moves, she contended, conveyed to India that if compelled, Pakistan “could prevail at any level of conflict”.

She proposed seven steps for establishing strategic stability, which included, pre-crisis management mechanism possibly through raising the level of military hotlines; strategic dialogue on reduction in missile deployments; improving the advance missile test notification system; expanding the lists of nuclear installations exchanged annually; freezing deployment of S-400 ABM systems; conventional force reduction including offensive weapon system; and establishing a strategic dialogue structure.

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2019