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Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to speak at this august gathering of diplomats, scholars and academics. I thank the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS) for providing me this opportunity on an issue of great contemporary significance.

The events of the past few weeks serve another stark reminder of the heavy responsibility that both Pakistan and India, bear to work towards addressing the underlying challenges to strategic stability in South Asia and to commit to a peaceful environment, conducive to the socio-economic development and welfare of our peoples.

We have also been witness to how strategic stability in South Asia can be affected, not only by regional developments, but also by the approach of international community, in particular that of the major powers, towards the region. We hope that key players would recognize the need for objective and even-handed approach, which is not tainted by considerations of geo-political dominance and defining new regional security paradigms.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Strategic Stability, in a classical sense, can be understood as a situation deliberately maintained where there is no incentive for any side to use weapons of mass destructions or to pursue military dominance or stock up weapons, which could lead to an arms race. It is a situation where the respective military capabilities of each side are not beyond their national security needs.

Proceeding from this basic understanding, one can clearly discern the severe stress on strategic stability in South Asia. The most important drivers for instability stem from one actor’s global power ambitions, which have led to massive accumulation of advanced weapon systems, beyond genuine national security needs, and a constant effort to seek space for war, under a nuclear overhang which is a dangerous proposition.

The South Asian security environment is in a state of flux. India’s massive acquisition of conventional arms coupled with offensive doctrines, such as Cold Start, expansion of strategic assets including nuclear submarines, introduction of Anti Ballistic Missile systems, etc. are developments with serious security implications for Pakistan and the region. The recent Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test, once again highlights our concerns on the military spin-offs of high technology trade with India, while disregarding proliferation concerns, which also undermines regional stability. Similarly, the country-specific exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), has had negative implications for strategic stability in our region.

The introduction of new destabilizing weapon systems, such as the S-400 anti-ballistic missile system, could further accentuate challenges to strategic stability. They can encourage a misadventure by an adversary, under a false sense of security.

The recent belligerence displayed against Pakistan and the assumption that we could be subject to punitive strikes, at will, is a clear manifestation of threats to stability in the region. As a peace loving country, Pakistan is committed to a peaceful neighbourhood. However, we would also like to make it absolutely clear that we are equally determined to frustrate any attempt to create a so-called “new normal”. The events of 27th February are indicative of our appreciation of these threats and reflect our capability to effectively reply to them.

We expect outside players to be mindful of their responsibilities in terms of arms supplies to the region, in pursuit of their geo-political strategies. Designation of states as “net security providers” bestowing upon them a sense of entitlement to pursue capabilities beyond genuine national security requirements is a dangerous proposition. Such notions violate the principle of equal and undiminished security for all, which has been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Pakistan is a peace-loving country. Our conduct as a nuclear weapon state will continue to be defined by restraint and responsibility. As we seek to ensure our national security, credible minimum deterrence remains our guiding principle. We are opposed to a nuclear or conventional arms race in the region. Pakistan has demonstrated its commitment to peace and stability by putting forth the proposal for a Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR), which is premised on three interlocking elements of conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint and conventional balance. This proposal remains on the table. If pursued with sincerity, it can lay the foundation of lasting peace and stability in the region.

Conflict resolution is the key to any successful strategic stability arrangement in South Asia. The abiding threat to the long term peace and stability of this region emanates from the unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute, for more than seven decades. It lies at the heart of every crisis between Pakistan and India, including the events this year.

This uncertainty underscores the urgency of finding a peaceful resolution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. India’s continued denial of right to self-determination to the Kashmiris, which has been promised to them through the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, and the blatant human rights violations, especially in the Valley, have led to frustration among the Kashmiris, especially the youth. As a result, the struggle in the has gained tremendous momentum and the plight of Kashmiris has caught the world’s attention. India is now facing a strong backlash to the atrocities that it continues to inflict on the Kashmiris.

We believe that the only way for Pakistan and India to move forward is through a dialogue. We need a willing and constructive partner to tackle myriads of daunting challenges that beset our region including disease, poverty, illiteracy, climate change and environmental degradation. A peaceful neighbourhood is the sine qua non to build prosperous societies.

India has also scuttled the SAARC process, boycotting the Summit, which was to be held on 9-10 November, 2016 in Islamabad. SAARC has fallen far behind, in the endeavour to achieve its Charter objectives of development, integration and trade due to Indian obstinacy and intransigence. Pakistan remains committed to the SAARC spirit and to holding the Summit in Islamabad, at an early date, in order to take the process forward.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In November 2018, with the inauguration of the Kartarpur sahib corridor – a long-standing demand of the Sikh community – the PTI government exhibited that it is prepared to take concrete steps to ease tensions. It also showed our commitment to work towards better relations with India. On the contrary, India, at the last minute postponed the upcoming Kartarpur sahib corridor meeting, that they had themselves requested, on 2nd April, without seeking views from Pakistan and especially after the productive technical meeting on March 14 (at Attari). Our neighbour needs to understand that the only way forward is an uninterrupted, uninterruptible dialogue process which would lead to dispute resolution and be a harbinger of peace, prosperity and development for the peoples of the region.

In the end, I would like to reiterate that Pakistan remains steadfast in its commitment to improve its bilateral relations with all neighbours and building a prosperous and peaceful South Asia.

I thank you all.

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