Action against Afghan Taliban and talks can’t go together: Nawaz
Says Pakistan’s priority is to defeat TTP; India engaged in arms build-up with ‘active assistance of several powers’; Pakistan will have to take measures to preservecredible deterrence; no alternative for two countries but to resume talks to resolve all issues, including Kashmir
By our correspondents
October 24, 2015
WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Friday said he had told the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that Pakistan was prepared to assist peace talks but could not bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table “and be asked to take action against them at the same time.” “Pakistan has no reason to want any violence in Afghanistan. The attacks on the Afghan government, and indeed on Pakistan, emanated from the vast areas in Afghanistan now under Taliban control,” he said while addressing the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) here. “Pakistan’s priority is to defeat the TTP, which has also found bases on the Afghan territory. Peace within Afghanistan will enable Pakistan to eliminate the TTP threat,” he added. Nawaz said over the past 14 years, a military solution had been elusive in Afghanistan. “We believe it is unlikely to be achieved in the future. Thus, achieving peace through negotiations is the best option,” he said. The prime minister said one of the first steps that he took after assuming office was to send a message of peace and cooperation to all immediate neighbours – Afghanistan, Iran and India. More recently, he said, the security environment in Afghanistan had deteriorated. “Pakistan condemns all terrorist violence in Afghanistan,” he added. He said there were 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”, he stressed. The prime minister said Pakistan undertook, at President Ghani’s behest, to facilitate a dialogue between Kabul and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan, adding that the first round of intra-Afghan talks was held in Murree where both sides characterized the round as encouraging. He, however, added a few days before the second session, which was set for July 31, untimely revelations about the death of Mulla Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, produced predictable consequences. “Without the authority of their leader to engage in dialogue, the Taliban broke off talks. In their succession struggle, their default option was to revert to a fighting mode”, he added. He urged the international community to play role in stopping the slide towards a dangerous Pakistan-India crisis by preventing India’s belligerent actions rather than Pakistan’s defensive responses. “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”, he said. The USIP is an independent and non-partisan federal institution, funded by the US Congress and works to resolve violent conflicts around the world. Nawaz, who earlier made his address at the USIP in 2013, spoke at length on various bilateral matters, the situation in the region as well as Pakistan’s successes in the war against terrorism and its achievements on the economic front. He said the Pakistan-India relationship posed 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”, he maintained. The prime minister referred to his visit to New Delhi to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Modi in 2014 and said his sincere efforts to improve relations with India and 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 the National Security Adviser in New Delhi”, he regretted. He said the cancellation of NSA-level talks had 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. He said anti-Pakistan actions by Hindu extremists were exacerbating the present tensions in the region. The prime minister mentioned his address to the UN General Assembly last month, where he proposed a new peace initiative, comprising four specific and feasible steps that could serve as the basis for progress towards normalisation, but “unfortunately, India’s response was not positive.” He said while refusing dialogue, India was 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”, he added. The prime minister said a normal and stable relationship between Pakistan and India could 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”, he added. The prime minister said his government’s foreign policy was guided by the principles: “Peace for Development” and “Peaceful Neighborhood”. “Peace with our neighbors will enhance our domestic security and economic growth and development”, he added.