Thursday July 18, 2024

Good neighbourhood

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
September 27, 2019

At the moment, when world leaders are attending the UN Session, American people are busy in preparations to celebrate National Good Neighbour Day.

In the 1970s, the concept of celebrating a national day, in order to recognize the importance of good neighbours, was introduced in the US. It was proclaimed by then US President Jimmy Carter in 1978 with a purpose to raise awareness and build strong communities. National Good Neighbour Day is now celebrated every year on September 28 as a national holiday so that Americans can spend quality time with their neighbours.

On the diplomatic front, the focus of the US government is also to establish cordial relations with both its neighbouring countries, Canada and Mexico. Today, America is in laudable relationship with Canada. Along with sharing the world’s longest border, both countries are not only strategic allies but also enjoying strong economic, cultural and defence partnerships. The signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) by three countries had resulted in to boosting regional trade and investment.

During the 19th century, Mexico and America fought horrific wars over territorial disputes. However, later on both countries recognized the importance of resolving their bilateral conflicts through dialogue. The US-Mexico Boundary Treaty, signed in 1970, resulted in ending almost all disputes. Today, the US is largest trading partner of Mexico and the US’s third largest trade partner is considered Mexico.

Every religion of the world emphasises to keep good relations with neighbours. The last Prophet (pbuh) offered freedom to enemy prisoners in exchange for teaching Muslim children. Amnesty for everyone was announced after Mecca was conquered.

Geographically, our neighbouring countries are China, Afghanistan, Iran and India. In the past, Pakistan played a key role in connecting China with the modern world. China is also a firm supporter of Pakistan’s stance on different international forums. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the largest development project of the century, is also an attempt to further strengthen friendship bonds.

Our other neighbour Iran was the first country to recognize and accept Pakistan as a sovereign and independent state. In the past, some non-state actors caused bilateral relations to face ups and downs. Today, on the Kashmir issue, Iran is not only standing with us but the Iranian parliament also passed a resolution in solidarity with the Kashmiri people. We must also play a significant role to resolve the Iran-US tensions for the sake of regional stability. Pakistan should be well-aware about international conspiracies about both friendly countries, China and Iran, and we must not accept foreign pressure in this regard.

Unfortunately, our relations with Afghanistan have not been good since day one. We should analyse why there is such a lack of trust between us. Why does Afghanistan always prefer India over Pakistan? The answer to such questions must be found for promoting a good neighbourhood.

Although Pakistan and India share a common history and culture, the countries have fought wars over Kashmir, and armed themselves with the latest technological weapons. Examples around the world show us that major disputes among countries are mostly over border conflicts but sensible and mature countries resolve their disputes through dialogue. To ensure the prosperity and betterment of their people, their leadership focuses on trading partnerships. Our neighbouring country China’s example is before us.

In today’s era, no country can progress in a state of isolation; establishing cordial relations with neighbours is essential for peace and prosperity. While adopting a realistic approach, we need to consider all those points because of which we are unable to resolve the longstanding issue of Kashmir and involving our country in new global conflicts. Ironically, our so called friendly countries for which we designed state policies are standing with Indian PM Modi.

The current situation is eye-opening for us that in this critical time China and Iran came forward to support us. On this occasion, I want to convey that we should learn from history and rather than involving any third party for mediation, we should resolve our conflicts with neighbouring countries through bilateral dialogue. In my view, free trade and people-to-people contacts between Pakistan and neighbouring countries could play a pivotal role in promoting good neighbourly relations.

The writer is a member of theNational Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani