Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for the joint initiative of the National Defence University and the Royal Danish Defence College, to organize a focused discussion on regional stability and peacebuilding.
2. Many of the recommendations emanating from the deliberations hold great value and relevance for policy makers, as it would feed into the Government’s priority on peace, stability and development in the region, anchored in our policy of friendly and peaceful neighborhood. This was most forcefully articulated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the UN General Assembly last month, when he stated:
“In South Asia, our people have missed opportunities for prosperity because of unresolved conflicts. We have a choice today: continue with the status quo or to seize the moment to resolve all outstanding issues and free up our shared energies for cooperation. To take this course of high statesmanship, we need more, not less, dialogue and diplomacy. We need to respect each other’s rights and sensibilities. We must have relationships based on equality, mutual respect and transparency”.
3. This statement is a veritable framework for regional peace and stability. Cooperation, trust, conflict resolution, and mutually beneficial relationships are its pillars..
4. Coming back to the theme of this Seminar, let me stress that peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace building are part of a continuum and therefore, these three processes cannot be separated. And as per current practice, peacebuilding applies to post-conflict situations, when the first two stages of peacemaking and peacekeeping have run their course. But what does peacebuilding – a term used widely in varying contexts – mean.
5. At the UN, peacebuilding is mostly related to peace consolidation efforts in post-conflict situations, or in countries emerging from internal conflict, or what we call “complex crisis”. The idea is that these crises have multidimensional underlying problems – political, peace and security, development, humanitarian – which need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. Many situations in Africa, and in our immediate neighbourhood, fit that classification.
6. On the other hand, there are inter-state conflicts and territorial disputes, where conflict resolution and peacebuilding often have different dynamics and requirements. However, what is common in both kinds of situations, intra or inter-state, is the need to address the core issues, or the root causes of conflict.
7. This is the fundamental lesson of peace building. We cannot build, much less sustain peace, without resolving the underlying problems and disputes. Palestine in the Middle East and Jammu and Kashmir in South Asia, are the most glaring examples. Foreign interventions and resulting occupations, or the very perception of occupation, have also impeded peace initiatives.
8. What about lessons learned in peacebuilding? It goes without saying that in complex crises, often it is imperative to address in parallel the governance, development and humanitarian challenges, in order to consolidate the gains on the security side. Delay or failure to do this, imperils the entire peacebuilding project. Another important lesson learnt is that there are limits to what peacebuilding can achieve. Moreover, peacebuilding should not be confused with nation-building.
9. Effective peacebuilding requires genuine and inclusive reconciliation. This is a lesson learned, especially in internal conflicts, where the ethnic, racial, tribal, and religious dimensions of conflict, need to be addressed, and political and economic power sharing ensured, while also providing for transitional justice. In inter-state situations as well, promotion of “grand reconciliation” (between nations) may have a lot of merit.
10. One obvious lesson in peacebuilding is that where the underlying problems have not been addressed, the risk of recurrence or relapse into conflict is great. Mere absence of war does not mean peace, may I stress.
11. Policies of major regional and global powers have an impact on regional dynamics, and can have either a positive or a negative influence on regional peace and stability. Western policies in the Middle East, especially on the Palestinian question, for example are generally perceived as unhelpful for conflict resolution, or the peace process. Similarly, great power interests in Syria and Ukraine are a major impediment to peacebuilding. In the context of Afghanistan, the major powers could have used their long presence and engagement with that country, to promote genuine regional cooperation that would have also addressed the concerns of the neighbouring countries. However, this could not be done. With Pakistan, over these years, there was a policy ranging from cooperation to confrontation and often lack of mutual trust, despite being a major non-NATO ally and a frontline state in the counter-terrorism campaign. Iran, on the other hand, was subjected to sanctions, with consequences even for regional initiatives for trade and development, as evidenced from the failure to move forward on the Gas Pipeline Project.
12. Seminar participants may already have touched upon the emergence of the European Union. That this should happen in a region which was the scene of the biggest conflict in the last century, makes it the most remarkable peacebuilding experiment in post-war period. The key take-away from the European model is: first work on the economic cooperation and then move on to political integration.
13. Our conversation about postwar Europe would not however, be complete, without mentioning the Marshall Plan. The United States gave assistance of nearly $ 160 billion in current dollar terms, to war-torn Europe and its shattered economies. This aid was appropriately called the European Recovery Program (RPM). But this also proves the point that for effective peacebuilding, post-conflict scenarios must have institutions that would cater to regional governance, promote regional economic cooperation, and foster cultural exchanges and dialogue. Absent these conditions, regional stability will remain elusive.
14. Against this backdrop, let me move to Afghanistan, where peacebuilding will be successful, if the three ongoing transitions – political, security and economic – are completed effectively.
15. There are strong expectatives that the recent political process, which has brought President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to the helm, would now be steered to a peace and reconciliation process. When we say an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, this is not a platitude, but an essential condition for creating a genuine coalition of all stakeholders.
16. The security transition is vital. The US/NATO troops remaining on the Afghanistan soil, post-drawdown, should rightly focus on their three-point mission – train, assist and advice – to build the capacity of the Afghan security forces.
17. These are important tasks, as the international military coalition should not leave a vacuum behind – especially an economic vacuum. The most important objectives include continued support to Afghan economy and infrastructure, as well as investment in education, health and empowerment of women.
18. We will have to go a step further. Conscious and resolute efforts need to be made to support regional economic integration, by launching and completing TAPI and CASA-1000, and promoting economic, trade and transportation corridors.
19. Finally, it is our strong desire that Afghanistan should become a metaphor for cooperation, not an arena for strategic competition. Distant, outer-ring neighbours should not attempt to displace Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours. Such policies will not work. Conflicts, whether internal or inter-state, and their consequences seldom remain isolated geographically. Quite often, entire sub-regions or regions are affected. That is why regional approach is so important for peace.
20. Ever since the meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Premier Li Keqiang of China in May 2013 in Islamabad, both countries have been engaged in intensive consultations, to formulate policies to promote large scale economic cooperation in critical sectors of the economy. The most important element of this would be the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the contours of which are being determined. Its scale would be transformative and massive. It envisages connecting the Chinese city of Kasghar with Gwadar by motorway, bringing in industries from China and establishing them along the motorway, thus benefiting FATA, KP and Balochistan. It is also considering building the Lahore-Multan-Sukkar-Karachi Motorway, that would bring prosperity to Southern Punjab, and interior Sindh. Power projects in KP, Sindh and Punjab which would add some 10,000 MW to the national grid, are also being finalized. The Prime Minister envisions that these connectivity projects would connect China with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Gulf and even expand to India, at some stage. In this manner, two billion people living in the region, which means nearly one third of the world’s population, would benefit from this unprecedented economic cooperation. Some project agreements would be signed during the Prime Minister’s visit to China next month.
21. Violent extremism, terrorism and sectarianism have had a deadly impact on both our economy and polity, and at times have severely challenged our national security. Our current counter-terrorism operation – Zarb-e-Azb – has dealt a serious blow to the terrorists’ command and control structures and networks. Let me here pay a warm tribute to our brave armed forces and martyrs, for the sacrifices they have given. We know that the fight is not over, because the enemy is sinister, devious and dangerous.
22. Our macroeconomic fundamentals and indicators are sound. Our growth trajectory is poised to move upward. But for that, we need internal and regional stability, democratic continuity, domestic investment in small, medium-sized manufacturing, strengthening of services industry, and sizeable flows of foreign direct investment.
23. To establish a correlation between regional stability and peacebuilding, I would suggest that first we need to keep in mind that peacebuilding in our part of the world has not yet begun. It should be preceded by the unfinished work of peacemaking. In this context, there are four priorities that I would like to suggest;
(i) India should work with Pakistan for a genuine rapprochement, by resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. At least, a process for doing so should be in place.
(ii) Efforts should get under way to promote national reconciliation in Afghanistan. That would lead to the emergence of a stronger and more unified Afghan nation.
(iii) The Western Alliance, led by the US, should continue to provide necessary economic assistance to Afghanistan, to help it recover from the depredations of prolonged wars and strife.
(iv) Energies of the multilateral and regional groupings such the OIC, SAARC, ECO and SCO, should be used to construct concentric circles and overlapping corridors to build regional connectivity and cooperation.
24. To sum up, how can we ensure effective and durable regional peace and stability?
One, promote bilateral and regional cooperation, and a shared interest in peace and development.
Two,prioritize conflict prevention and resolution. This objective can be achieved through:
Dialogue and engagement.
(i) Confidence building measures.
(ii) Genuine, inclusive and result oriented peace processes, within specific timeframes.
Three,appropriate support of international and regional organizations; and,
Four,Constructive engagement and support of the regional/global players.
23rd October, 2014
Last modified: November 21, 2019
Our foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.