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December 19, 2013

‘Strategic depth’ an outdated policy, Sartaj tells Senate

December 19, 2013

ISLAMABAD: In what could be seen as a major policy shift, the government revealed in the Senate on Wednesday that the perception of Afghanistan as a zone of strategic depth for Pakistan was totally outdated and needed no attention.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz declared the concept of strategic depth had no importance at all. This, he said, while winding up the debate on a motion moved by Mian Raza Rabbani in the Senate on December 11.
He made it clear that strategic depth meant nothing for Pakistan and Afghanistan. He added Afghanistan was free to make decisions about its political future on its own.He said that peaceful neighbourhood was the top priority of the incumbent government. He added that Pakistan was following the policy of non-interference in Afghanistan and not fighting proxy wars.
Aziz continued that Pakistan had no favourites in Afghanistan and its policy of non-interference in Afghanistan affairs had helped improve bilateral relations. The adviser said that Pakistan was in favour of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. The adviser believed that the year 2014 presented both challenges and opportunities for Afghanistan and three kinds of transition – political, economic and security-related. Aziz maintained that the government working on strengthening and broadening economic and strategic relations, keeping in view post 2014 situation when the US forces would exit Afghanistan.
He added that the issue of the Bilateral Security Agreement and residual presence of the ISAF forces after 2014 wasstill in the process of being sorted out. With regard to a resolution against the execution of Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla, Aziz maintained the parliament was sovereign and could pass a resolution on this matter.
The Foreign Office had termed it an internal matter of Bangladesh but it did express concern over the execution as a violation of human rights.

About the role of Pakistan in Doha talks, he said that Islamabad was just a facilitator, adding it seemed it would not progress any further after the Taliban put forward some conditions, which were not acceptable.
On Pak-India relations, Aziz said there was no more deterioration in relations and things had greatly improved. He noted that besides CBMs, a backdoor diplomacy channel was working to bring both the neighbours closer.
About the US-led drone attacks, the adviser contended that the UN General Assembly was going to pass a resolution today against the drone attacks inside Pakistan, which was a great success on the diplomatic front.
Regarding the stalled talks with the Taliban, he said that the government was pursuing the option of dialogue as top priority and if it failed there were other options that would be exercised as a last resort.
He pointed out that for the first time, both civilian and military leadership had tried to formulate consensus by taking all the stakeholders onboard, as Pakistan believed in a policy which best served its national interests.
In his hard-hitting speech earlier, Senator Zahid alleged that five persons, including Imran Khan, Sheikh Rasheed, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jehangir Tareen had ignited fire in his province and were now enjoying it while sitting in the Punjab. He was referring to PTI’s youth blocking Nato supplies.
About PTI’s protest demonstration in Lahore on December 22 against the price hike, he said that Imran was resorting to this in Punjab, as if his government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had resolved pressing issues confronting people of the province.
Zahid Khan of Awami National Party, during the debate, described Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Imran Khan as Ranjeet Singh, controlling Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while sitting in Lahore. He did not spare the prime minister and said that the country was left on its own and the prime minister was not ready to take the Senate into confidence on policy matters.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed in his speech on Tuesday had said there were five foreign ministers, Zahid included Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the list as sixth foreign minister.

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