Future of Pakistan,
India interconnected;
says Imran Khan

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that future of Pakistan and India depends on each other and both countries were vulnerable to climate change. “Our futures are connected. We both should focus on climate change together but till now I’m not seeing that seriousness in world leaders because their commercial interests are clashing with steps needed to stop climate change,” he said.

He was addressing the Islamabad Conclave 2021, which had the theme “Peaceful and Prosperous South Asia”, the prime minister said: “The situation is going towards a [new] Cold War and blocs are forming.

Imran Khan in his address spoke on various issues of regional and international interests including Pakistan-India relations, Jammu and Kashmir, climate change, etc. 

India-Pak relations and Kashmir

Prime Minister Imran Khan while highlighting the importance of resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute for peace and prosperity of region said that the Kashmir dispute had made the whole of South Asia hostage.

Imran Khan recalled that soon after coming into power he contacted the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and made efforts for the resumption of dialogue to resolve the outstanding disputes in a peaceful manner, but they took it as Pakistan’s weakness.

The Prime Minister said he had a considered opinion that the disputes like Jammu and Kashmir could only be resolved through dialogue and not through “bomb and guns”.

If the issues could be resolved through the bomb and guns, then the United States, which was a big military power, should have won in Afghanistan, he remarked.

The Prime Minister said it was unfortunate not only for the Kashmiris alone but also for the 500 million minorities living in India that Modi-led regime with an ideology of RSS-Hindutva and supremacy of upper-class Hindus was in power.

He maintained that India cannot achieve peace and development by marginalizing the 500 million minorities. The Prime Minister said that Pakistan wished and prayed for a government in India with which it could talk with logic and argument for the just resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute through dialogue.

The premier stressed that countries connected together develop as a region rather than individually. “There are two problems in our region: trade is low because of political differences and conflicts and secondly we are connected because of climate change,” he said.

He said that once the Kashmir dispute is sorted, other issues could be jointly tackled as well such as smog and pollution. “Until both countries don’t sit together, no matter how much we do in Lahore [to control smog] we will only solve half the problem,” the prime minister explained.

Pointing to India’s domestic affairs and communal divides, he said the marginalisation of certain societal segments would have “severe repercussions” on Indian society and others.

“History tells us that when you exclude people then you marginalise [people] and then you radicalise them as well,” he said.

The premier said in his view, problems solved through military means and wars were subject to “miscalculations”. “Those who decide to solve problems through warfare have two traits: they don’t learn from history and they have pride in their weapons,” he added.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses Islamabad Conclave 2021 on Thursday.

“Miscalculations happen because of these two traits and weeks-long wars kept continuing,” the prime minister said, pointing to the Afghan conflict and Pakistan’s internal military operations.

Pakistan not interested in any political block

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan desired not be a part of any political bloc but instead wanted to play its role in bridging gaps between the United States and China. “Pakistan should try its best to stop the formation of these blocs because we should not become a part of any bloc.”

The premier said the original Cold War between the US and the then Soviet Union had caused great loss to the world and so Pakistan did not want to get trapped in a potentially new one.

Instead, Pakistan wanted to “unite people” such as its efforts in cooling the stand-off between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he said. “Both countries appreciated that we tried our best during a very critical phase where conflict could have occurred between them.”

The prime minister added that Pakistan wanted to play a similar role in the current US-China relations and “stop their growing distances”.

Humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the international community to help avert a looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which was facing severe economic problems, owing to its frozen assets.

Pakistan would do every effort to help address the sufferings of the 40 million Afghan people, he said, while addressing the inaugural session of the Islamabad Conclave on “Peace and Prosperity in South Asia” here at the Institute of Strategic Studies. 

Pakistan is to host an extraordinary meeting of the OIC Council of Foreign Minister in Islamabad on December 19, to deliberate on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and to find a way out to address the sufferings of the Afghan people. Prime Minister said Pakistan through the OIC would play its part to reach out to the Afghan people who were in dire need of food, shelter and medicines.

Prime Minister Imran Khan mentioned the freezing of Afghanistan foreign exchange reserves by the United States as one of the major factors behind the economic and humanitarian crisis for Afghans, who were facing problems for the last 40 years. 

He said that due to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Iran was also facing the problem of refugees. The Prime Minister said that peace in Afghanistan was not only vital for the future of Pakistan but also for the Central Asian States which were much interested in regional trade and connectivity. 

US Democracy Summit

His comments come a day after Pakistan indicated that it may not attend President Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit, adding it would like to engage with Washington on the issue of democracy “at an opportune time in the future”.

Biden has invited around 110 countries, including major Western allies but also Iraq, India and Pakistan, to a virtual summit on democracy that is being held on December 9-10.