Only mutual trust, equality can ensure regional security, says Dastgir

  • Defence minister says US approach to region contains strategic contradictions
  • Success of CPEC based on national consensus, positive geopolitical relations’

Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir on Wednesday said that in the South Asia security matrix, there was no room for self-proclaimed and artificially boosted states.

He was addressing the concluding session of a two-day national conference titled: ‘Changing Security Situation in South Asia and Development of CPEC’, organised by Islamabad Policy Research Institute and the Hanns Seidel Foundation at a local hotel.

Regional security in the 21st Century can only be ensured through relationships and collaborations based on mutual trust and equality,” he said. The minister said that the recently announced US policy on South Asia underscored a greater role for India in Afghanistan and the region, while not acknowledging the exponential contribution, counter-terrorism success, and sacrifices of Pakistan for peace and regional stability.

“There are strategic contradictions in the US approach and most key regional and global players have not supported this declared US policy since it envisages India to be a Net Security Provider in the region.

He said that South Asia was undergoing an unprecedented transformation due to globalised economic trends and rising interdependencies, wherein the prosperity and stability of one nation would be indivisible from others. “It is home to countries that share much with each other culturally and geographically, but ironically progressing independently rather than in conjunction”, he said.

“The possible reason for limited cooperation lies in deep-rooted historic political differences due to colonial legacies and territorial disputes, which have not allowed the environment of trust to prevail and is being exploited by the extra regional states for their geopolitical interests.”

Khurram Dastgir said that political issues and conflicts had not allowed the strategic and economic interests of the region to take precedence. He said that amid these complex security threats, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was a significant flagship project, which had gained global attention and had the potential to bring a paradigm shift in the destiny of this entire region.

“But here the caveat is that peace amongst the regional countries is a pre-requisite for success of this initiative.” The success of CPEC, he said, hinged on the ability to deal with intricate national security issues, forging national consensus and preventing negative geo-political influences in the region.

“Cooperation between Pakistan and China is focused on economic development through connectivity and is not against any other country; it seeks to establish and sustain long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with the global and regional players,” he added.

Meanwhile, there was unanimous agreement between the conference delegates that China had never changed its stance towards Pakistan and remained steadfast in supporting it at the international level. China’s push to block anti-Pakistan statements in the recent BRICS Declaration is one example of that.

It was pointed that the CPEC is offering a development counter-narrative to Balochistan’s grievances, and the government of Pakistan should involve the local people and engage the country’s young men and women in CPEC projects.