ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has called for a regional consensus among the ‘external actors’ to agree on non-interference in the internal matters of Afghanistan, fearing that the war-torn country may be used for ‘proxy war’ in the post-US withdrawal period.
“The external actors would have to agree on a regional consensus on non-interference,” said Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in a policy statement on Wednesday while addressing the conference at the National Defence University.
Pakistan is increasingly concerned that growing influence of India inside Afghanistan could be detrimental to its interests in the region.
There are concerns that Pakistan and India could engage in a proxy war in Afghanistan once the US completely pulls out of the war-ravaged country.
In his address, Aziz urged the international community for not repeating the mistake of the past.
“We believe this precious moment of hope and optimism in Afghanistan must be defended, by not repeating the mistakes of the past. International community’s continuous engagement is a major imperative, since another abandonment of Afghanistan would lead to a repeat of the 1990s,” he stressed.
The PM’s advisor said the new Afghan government must be provided continuous economic and financial support for economic revival and for delivering on its reform agenda.
“All Afghan stakeholders must be convinced that their country would emerge stronger only if they worked with each other, not against each other, to carve out a political settlement,” he contended.
While highlighting the government’s foreign policy vision, he noted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif enunciated “peace for development” as the defining principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
Building a peaceful neighbourhood and a rebalancing between geo-strategic and geo-economic priorities constitute the main pillars of this policy, he added.
Aziz maintained that the government has embarked on resolute efforts to create a peaceful external and internal environment, so that the core national objective of economic development is robustly advanced.
However, he emphasised that the vision of a peaceful neighbourhood cannot be realised without a qualitative transformation in our relationships with Afghanistan, India and Iran.
While relationship improved with Iran and Afghanistan, Aziz said, the Modi government in India was not forthcoming to Pakistan’s overtures.
“India unfortunately has not reciprocated our outreach. The cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks by India on the pretext of our High Commissioner’s meeting with Kashmiri leaders was found unconvincing worldwide,” he said.
The PM’s advisor cautioned that any efforts by India towards unilaterally altering the status of Kashmir would further compound the already complicated situation.
“Unprovoked and indiscriminate firing and shelling from across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, with Indian leadership threatening disproportionate use of force, portend India’s dangerous desire to create a space for war,” he said.
Aziz said Pakistan appreciates US interest in South Asia and expects it to play a constructive role for strategic stability and balance in the region by allowing space and resources to focus on the objectives of economic development and poverty reduction and reduce the possibility of a reinvigorated arms race in the sub-continent.