Pakistan desires to bridge gaps between US, China instead of joining any bloc: PM Imran

Published December 9, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses Islamabad Conclave 2021. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses Islamabad Conclave 2021. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said Pakistan desired not be a part of any political bloc but instead wanted to play its role in bridging gaps between the United States and China.

Addressing the Islamabad Conclave 2021, which had the theme "Peaceful and Prosperous South Asia", the prime minister said: "The situation is going towards a [new] Cold War and blocs are forming.

"Pakistan should try its best to stop the formation of these blocs because we should not become a part of any bloc."

The premier said the original Cold War between the US and the then Soviet Union had caused great loss to the world and so Pakistan did not want to get trapped in a potentially new one.

Instead, Pakistan wanted to "unite people" such as its efforts in cooling the stand-off between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he said.

"Both countries appreciated that we tried our best during a very critical phase where conflict could have occurred between them."

The prime minister added that Pakistan wanted to play a similar role in the current US-China relations and "stop their growing distances".

His comments come a day after Pakistan indicated that it may not attend President Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit, adding it would like to engage with Washington on the issue of democracy “at an opportune time in the future”.

Biden has invited around 110 countries, including major Western allies but also Iraq, India and Pakistan, to a virtual summit on democracy that is being held on December 9-10.

The US invitation had put Pakistan in a difficult spot as Washington invited Taiwan, instead of Beijing, to represent China at the summit. Russia, another major world power, was also kept out. China is Pakistan’s closest ally while Islamabad is trying to improve its ties with Moscow as well.

Policymakers in Islamabad are worried that not attending the summit would give India a free hand, which already has a strong influence in the US. But a strong Chinese reaction to the US decision to invite Taiwan made it obvious that attending the summit could seriously damage Islamabad’s relations with Beijing, a risk Pakistan could not take.

China and the US are currently undergoing a turbulent period of political relations marked by competition at various fronts. The US has also announced a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights concerns for which China said it would "pay the price".

Read more: China’s push on multiple fronts rattles Pentagon

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of a potential new Cold War in September. He implored China and the US to repair their “completely dysfunctional” relationship before problems between the two large and deeply influential countries spill over even further into the rest of the planet.

'Futures are connected'

The prime minister, in his speech today, also commented on the regional situation, saying the biggest problem keeping South Asia "hostage" was the Kashmir issue.

He said his government had reached out to for peace to India but got "no positive response".

"Unfortunately we weren't having an interaction with a normal Indian government but the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) ideology ... and it is very difficult to negotiate with this ideology," the prime minister rued.

Pointing to India's domestic affairs and communal divides, he said the marginalisation of certain societal segments would have "severe repercussions" on Indian society and others.

"History tells us that when you exclude people then you marginalise [people] and then you radicalise them as well," he said.

The premier said in his view, problems solved through military means and wars were subject to "miscalculations".

"Those who decide to solve problems through warfare have two traits: they don't learn from history and they have pride in their weapons," he added.

"Miscalculations happen because of these two traits and weeks-long wars kept continuing," the prime minister said, pointing to the Afghan conflict and Pakistan's internal military operations.

'Pakistan, India should focus on climate change together'

Turning to climate change, the prime minister emphasised that both Pakistan and India were vulnerable to climate change.

"Our futures are connected. We both should focus on climate change together but till now I'm not seeing that seriousness in world leaders because their commercial interests are clashing with steps needed to stop climate change," he said.

The premier stressed that countries connected together develop as a region rather than individually. "There are two problems in our region: trade is low because of political differences and conflicts and secondly we are connected because of climate change," he said.

He said that once the Kashmir dispute is sorted, other issues could be jointly tackled as well such as smog and pollution. "Until both countries don't sit together, no matter how much we do in Lahore [to control smog] we will only solve half the problem," the prime minister explained.

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