LAHORE: A high-profile interactive panel discussion based on the new book by Dr Moeed Yusuf titled ‘Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environment: U.S. Crisis Management in South Asia’ was held at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday.
Focusing on the US policy in the South Asia region, the talk – organised by the Institute for Policy Reform (IPR) – centred around the pros and cons behind third-party arbitration in a world of ever more rapidly increasing nuclear proliferation. Using the subject matter and the narrative of Moeed Yusuf’s book as the focal point, the discussion used events such as the Kargil war and the Mumbai attacks to deconstruct nuclear tensions in the region and the attitude and role that the US has had in this regard.
Hosted by the IPR head and former commerce minister Humayun Akhtar, the discussion featured distinguished names in the fields of diplomacy and crisis management, including some of the key players in the situations discussed in the book such as Kargil and Mumbai crises.
The speakers at the event included Dr Moeed Yusuf himself, Mr Riaz Muhammad Khan, who was foreign secretary when the Mumbai attacks happened, Ambassador Shahid Malik, who was High Commissioner to India at the time, former Chief of General Staff Lt General Waheed Arshad, journalist and defence analyst Ejaz Haider, as well as the host and Chairman of the IPR, former Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan.
Other than the speakers, the panel included a number of former military men and diplomats, who had been involved in the different events and took part in the question and answer session after the talks had been delivered.
Saying this new book had been nearly a decade in the making, Dr Moeed said that it was important to write such things because while Pakistanis were quick to complain about the country being misrepresented in the West, there are barely any Pakistanis that are writing about the country.
“The argument for having nuclear weapons has long been the desire for strategic independence,” he said.
“But what I have uncovered is that US involvement in the region has not decreased, but rather increased since 1998 when Pakistan joined India as a nuclear state.”
Commenting on the nature of nuclear states, Dr Moeed said that it was only natural because two hostile, nuclear-armed neighbours were a global issue, and that the US still understood nuclear weapons as they did in the Cold War, and those anxieties made them an honest broker.
“A lot of people don’t want to trust the US What they don’t realize is that neither India or Pakistan trust the US. It is simply their belief that the US has leverage over the other that makes them an effective arbitrator.”
“The US will always involve itself. And while it might take the side of India in peacetime, they will support Pakistan during crisis.”
Quoting an anonymous senior US source, Dr Moeed said that even after the Mumbai attacks, the chief goal of the US had been to somehow get India to back off.
Agreeing with Dr Moeed, former Foreign Secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan also said that the US was a trustworthy arbitrator whose goal was to first and foremost secure global peace.
“Third parties naturally gravitate towards these situations, what we must realize is the danger that we pose to each other, and must first and foremost deescalate ourselves,” he said. “Third parties should always be welcome because no intercession is meant to fuel the fire,” he said.
“However, and I don’t know about India, but Pakistan did not pursue nuclear weapons when they could have. It was because of India’s desire to see itself a nuclear power that Pakistan had to respond.”
Ejaz Haider also spoke briefly on the occasion, explaining the deterrence model presented by Moeed. Ambassador Shahid Malik and Lt General Waheed Arshad were all praise for Dr Moeed’s book.