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India’s anti-Pakistan measures mounting tension in region, says PM Sharif

WASHINGTON: Pakistan wishes to have complete peace at the Working Boundary and the Line of Control (LoC), but the anti-Pakistan measures of Indian extremists have led to mounting tension in the region, said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Washington on Friday.

Addressing a ceremony at the United States (US) Institute of Peace, the Pakistan premier apprised them of the strengthening of democracy in Pakistan and the fading out of terrorism.

He said the operation Zarb-e-Azb led by Pakistani military is the world’s largest military campaign against terrorism and that his government is determined to root out this menace from Pakistan.


PM addresses ceremony at US Institute for Peace by arynews
Speaking to the attendees, Sharif noted that Pakistan seeks complete peace at the Working Boundary and the LoC, but the anti-Pakistan measures by Indian extremists resulted in escalating tension in the region.

The prime minister said we want to lower tension with India and maintain friendly relations with Afghanistan.

Speaking about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, he said our nuclear assets are in safe hands.

Moreover, PM Nawaz Sharif said that a strong Pakistan-US partnership can serve as a guarantee to durable peace in the region.

Statement by the Prime Minister at the US Institute of Peace

Opening remarks by the PM

It is my privilege to address this distinguished group of   scholars, professionals, media representatives and members of Washington’s policy community for the second time, in the past two years.

I want to thank the US Institute of Peace for providing me this opportunity. I would also like to commend the outstanding contribution made by the Institute to promote scholarship and understanding about issues concerning international peace and security.

Since I was here two years ago, Pakistan has witnessed several positive developments.

Domestically, democracy has been strengthened; terrorism is being combated; the economy has been stabilized and is poised for rapid growth. Yet, we still face external challenges: to pacify Afghanistan and normalize relations with India.

Strengthened and resilient democracy

In 2013, Pakistan saw a landmark transition when power was transferred, after the May 2013 elections, from one elected government to another, for the first time in the country’s history. In the following year, when political agitation was launched by one party, all the other parties came together in Parliament in defence of the democratic process.

This now reflects a firm national consensus. With an independent judiciary, a free media and a vibrant civil society, democratic institutions and traditions are becoming stronger in Pakistan.

Counter-terrorism

When my Government was elected, it faced a formidable internal security challenge.

Pakistan had lost 50,000 civilians to terrorist attacks, emanating from multiple sources, and violence was on the rise. Two years later, we have turned the tide against terrorism in Pakistan.

We made a strategic choice to eliminate all terrorist groups through a comprehensive strategy, involving forceful law enforcement actions and targeted military operations.

Our military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014, the largest anywhere in the world, has produced remarkable results. Terrorists’ sanctuaries, command and control and infrastructure have been destroyed. Thousands have been killed or captured. The rest are on the run. As the operation goes into its final phase, their few remaining hideouts will be cleared.

Simultaneously, through well-coordinated, intelligence-based law enforcement operations across Pakistan, the Government has launched a focused campaign against terrorist sleeper cells, their supporters, sympathizers and financiers.

Following the horrendous and cowardly attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar last December, the entire country united to fight the evil of terrorism.

We devised a comprehensive National Action Plan to fight terrorism through a multi-pronged strategy, combining military action, law enforcement operations, choking terrorist financing and countering the extremist narrative.

Our strategy has produced impressive results. The past year has seen the lowest number of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings since 2007.

This significant improvement in the security situation could not have been possible without the resolve of the people, Parliamentary consensus and the dedication and sacrifice of our security forces, all of who came together to counter and confront this menace.

The bravery of 14 year old Aitzaz Hasan of Hangu, who sacrificed his life to save his fellow students and the extraordinary tenacity of Malala Yousafzai, has inspired the entire nation to rise against this scourge. Hundreds of such stories of heroism have been written in blood and tears.

And the blood that has been shed has only strengthened our national resolve to fight until the last terrorist is eliminated.

We must acknowledge, however, that radicalization emerges from multiple sources. We need to address not only the symptoms of radicalization, but also its root causes, which are often to be found in political or social alienation and exclusion, as well as extreme poverty. Identifying terrorism with a specific culture or group is disingenuous. It serves to shift responsibility, and not resolve the challenge of radicalization which so many societies face today.

Improvement in economic indicators

As a result of bold economic reforms, my Government has achieved significant improvement in all major economic indicators. Pakistan’s GDP growth has increased from an average of around 3% over the past 7 years to 4.6% last year and is expected to be at least 5% this year.

We have reduced the budget deficit and contained inflation to the lowest level in the past two decades by reducing wasteful spending. The Karachi Stock Exchange has performed better than most of the world’s stock markets.

Pakistan’s economic upturn is now acknowledged worldwide. Bloomberg has described Pakistan as the best undiscovered frontier market.

Morgan Stanley has predicted that the economic rise of Pakistan is only a matter of time. Both Moody and Standard & Poor’s have upgraded Pakistan’s credit rating to “positive”.

With a young and vibrant population of 200 million, a middle class larger than in other South Asian countries, growing consumer demand, as well as a stable economy and improved security, Pakistan today offers enormous opportunities for profitable investment and trade.

Regional integration

One of the key pillars of my government’s policy is to encourage regional integration and connectivity. This is where Pakistan and its neighbors have the biggest opportunity to reap the dividends of peace. The most promising element of this policy is the recently launched China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

This concept embraces a package of multiple infrastructure and development projects estimated at US $46 billion. The CPEC will not be confined to China and Pakistan. Both countries will welcome the participation of public and private companies from other countries, including the United States.

Simultaneously, Pakistan is promoting other regional energy and infrastructure projects, including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline project: Central Asia-South Asia (CASA)-1000 electricity project;  the Kunar Power Project and  the Torkham-Jalalabad Road Project. We also intend to initiate action on the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project, as soon as sanctions on Iran are lifted.

We recognize that economic growth will be meaningful and sustainable, if accompanied by social and human development.

My Government will allocate larger resources to health, education, technology and training to equip our people to fully participate and benefit from Pakistan’s rapid growth.

Women empowerment

Recognizing that women, especially young girls, hold the key to reaping the demographic dividend, we have introduced numerous initiatives for enhanced economic participation and political empowerment of women and girls in Pakistan.

We are committed to provide our women greater access to education, economic resources, skills development and employment opportunities, to enable them to rightfully become equal partners in our economic development.

In this context, we welcome the Obama Administration’s initiative, “Let girls learn”, that will enhance cooperation in this important sector between the U.S. and Pakistan.

We remain committed to providing all segments of society, in particular religious minorities, equal opportunities to benefit from the fruits of economic growth.

“Peace within and peace without”

A guiding precept of Pakistan’s Founder, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was “Peace within and peace without”.

My Government foreign policy is guided by the principles: ” Peace for Development” and ” Peaceful Neighborhood”.

Peace with our neighbors will enhance our domestic security and economic growth and development.

One of the first steps that I took, after assuming office, was to send a message of peace and cooperation to all our immediate neighbours – Afghanistan, Iran and India.

More recently the security environment in Afghanistan has deteriorated. Pakistan condemns all terrorist violence in Afghanistan.

There are two paths to peace in Afghanistan – a military victory over the insurgents or a negotiated peace and national reconciliation.

Over the past 14 years, a military solution has been elusive. We believe that it is unlikely to be achieved in the future. Thus, achieving peace through negotiations is the best option.

Pakistan undertook, at President Ghani’s behest, to facilitate a dialogue between Kabul and the Tehrik e Taliban Afghanistan. A first round of intra-Afghan talks was held in Murree. Both sides characterised this round as encouraging. A second session was set for 31 July. A few days before, untimely revelations about the death of Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, produced predictable consequences.

Without the authority of their leader to engage in the dialogue, the Taliban broke off the talks. In their succession struggle, their default option was to revert to a fighting mode.

Pakistan has no reason to want any violence in Afghanistan. The attacks on the Afghan government, and indeed on Pakistan, emanate from the vast areas in Afghanistan now under Taliban control. Pakistan’s priority is to defeat the TTP, which has also found bases on Afghan territory. Peace within Afghanistan will enable Pakistan to eliminate the TTP threat.

I have again conveyed to President Ghani that, if he desires, we are prepared, to assist in reviving the talks between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban. But we cannot bring them to the table and be asked to kill them at the same time.

Relations with India

I have made sincere efforts to improve relations with India.
I was one of the first to congratulate Prime Minister Modi on his electoral victory in May 2014.
I accepted his invitation to attend his swearing-in ceremony.

However, the positive momentum generated by that meeting was halted when New Delhi cancelled the Foreign Secretary level talks on a flimsy excuse. I met Mr Modi again in Ufa, Russia. Again, the National Security Advisers’ meeting was scuttled by India’s attempts to limit the talks to one issue and to dictate the programme of our National Security Adviser in New Delhi.

The cancellation of the NSA-level talks has been followed by increased ceasefire violations by India across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, as well as a stream of hostile statements by the Indian political and military leadership. Meanwhile, anti-Pakistan actions by Hindu extremists are exacerbating the present tensions in our region.

In my address to the UN General Assembly last month, I proposed a new peace initiative, comprising four specific and feasible steps that could serve as the basis for progress towards normalization. Unfortunately, India’s response was not positive.

While refusing dialogue, India is engaged in a major arms build up, regrettably with the active assistance of several powers. It has adopted dangerous military doctrines. This will compel Pakistan to take several counter measures to preserve credible deterrence.

Clearly, there is a real and present threat to peace and security in South Asia. The international community can no longer pretend that it does not exist.

It must play a role to stop the slide towards a dangerous Pakistan-India crisis by preventing India’s belligerent actions rather than Pakistan’s defensive responses.

A normal and stable relationship between Pakistan-India can be built by adherence to the principles of the UN Charter especially the principle of sovereign equality of States and non-interference in their internal affairs and the right of peoples to self- determination. There is no alternative for the two countries, but to resume a comprehensive dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir.

Non-proliferation and disarmament

Pakistan is fully committed to the objectives of non-proliferation and disarmament.

Over the years, Pakistan has adopted a number of national measures to strengthen export controls and security, which are consistent with the best international standards.

Pakistan is also participating in global efforts to prevent and combat proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. We have also contributed constructively to the Nuclear Security Summit process, President Obama’s laudable initiative.

To fulfill its vast energy needs, Pakistan will install several civil nuclear power plants, under IAEA safeguards. We look forward to international cooperation in this context. As a responsible nuclear power, and one with the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy, it would be mutually beneficial for Pakistan to be accepted as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other export control regimes.

It is significant that on all the priority issues I have mentioned, America’s objectives are convergent with Pakistan’s.

Our extensive cooperation on counter-terrorism can be intensified and improved, especially by promoting mutual trust and confidence.
America’s participation in Pakistan’s economic and social development is historic and has been significant. We should review how US assistance can be more effectively utilized in Pakistan.

The US remains our largest single trading partner. Greater trade access would be crucial in propelling growth and employment in Pakistan. And, of greatest significance for Pakistan would be US investment in various sectors of our economy and participation in our planned infrastructure development, especially the connectivity projects.

On Afghanistan, difficult yet essential decisions are required in Kabul, Islamabad and Washington to find the best way to end violence and restore peace.

Obviously, the Pakistan-India relationship poses the most difficult and urgent challenge. I believe a close review of some of the existing assumptions and analyses, and greater attention to Pakistan’s views and interests, would be useful in enabling Washington to play a constructive role in averting the ever present danger of escalation and promoting stability in South Asia.

A close and enduring partnership between Pakistan and the US is, we believe, a strategic imperative for achieving lasting peace and stability in our region and beyond.

This beautiful capital signifies in more ways than one, the glorious struggles of the past in pursuit of liberty and freedom, and the aspirations for a better future, shared by both of our great nations.

Together, we should work as equal partners towards these shared goals.

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