Updated: Jan 6
1. You mentioned in your article that any attack in Kashmir could easily turn into a crisis of all-out war with the inherent risk of the use of nuclear weapons, do you have any suggestions on how to avoid such a crisis?
Countries with advancing nuclear arsenals can threaten each other with an all-out war with possibilities of using nuclear weapons, that they may safely skirmish at a lower level without fearing such devastation. Glenn Snyder called this “Stability-Instability Paradox”. Although Pakistan has exhibited a behavior of responsible nuclear state, nuclear weapons can make conflict more likely in presence of various causes of conflict and if countries miscalculate escalation risks-more dangerous.
An uncontested truth is that peace can only be achieved if the cause of conflict is removed. In the context of India and Pakistan, this asks for a peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of Kashmiris as well as the appropriate security interests of both states. Today, under BJP government where Modi has been demonstrating unwillingness in acknowledging the Kashmiris right of self-determination, the peace seems a distant prospect. The chance of yet another confrontation more disastrous than the August 2019 cannot be ruled out.
Hence, the urgency of situation demands that one ask what partial measures, as contrary to comprehensive peace settlement, might serve to inhibit war. At a minimum, preventing a crisis in India-Pakistan relations from possibly escalating into a nuclear war requires both countries to soberly consider establishing regular contacts at the highest level to deal with nuclear issues.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan practiced high restraint during 2019 crisis, and behaved as a responsible nuclear state. Showing restraint is the best available option because small miscalculation can lead to a disastrous war killing millions of people living in the sub-continent. Confidence-building measures should be pursued to alleviate the “trust deficit” but should not be used as a substitute for the resolution of disputes.
An institutionalized basis is needed for communication and exchange of information between India and Pakistan, with an intent to reassure each other that a military attack is not about to begin, or that an ongoing conflict is not about to be escalated to a higher dimension.
2. You also mentioned that the international community must exert its influence to prevent conflict in the India-Pakistan region, can you elaborate on your expectations for the international community's actions?
As I discussed in my article, Kashmir is a bone of contention between two nuclear powers, the only way to prevent conflict in India-Pakistan region is resolution of Kashmir dispute. Pakistan has globally raised the issue of Indian atrocities and the human rights’ situation in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The sub-continent is home to 1.7 billion people and a sizeable percentage lives in poverty and instability on borders. To bring lasting peace and enhanced socio-economic development in this region, international community must play its role in redressing the unfinished agenda of 1947 partition. Putting India on notice aside for not giving right of self-determination to Kashmiri people, the international response, so far, has not been strong enough to at least revert the draconian laws being imposed on Kashmiri people. This is not just Pakistan’s concern but of all those who believe in the rule of law and human rights.
After the unilateral abrogation of article 35A and 370 on August 5, 2019, Pakistan has been extensively sharing its concerns over human rights violations and heavy military deployment in Kashmir. Pakistan has raised voice for Kashmiris at multilateral forums and tried to arouse the conscience of the international community in regard to the atrocities perpetrated by Modi government.
In September 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, vigorously highlighted the Kashmir Issue and the dangers associated with its non-resolution to regional as well as global peace and security. Pakistan also presented its case in 42nd session of United Nations Human Rights Council. On 10 September 2019, over 50 countries delivered in a joint statement on the issue.
Kashmir has been the subject of tens of UNSC resolutions, specifically saying that Kashmir issue needs to be resolved through a plebiscite under UN auspices. But unfortunately, humanitarian nightmare characterized by military crackdown is continued till date. A besieged Kashmiri population urgently needs international remedies for justice, not continuing conditions of occupation, militarization and suppression.
3. With the widespread use of nuclear resources, the potential risk of nuclear terrorism is increasing worldwide, can you briefly discuss your views on strategies to deal with nuclear security?
Pakistan being located in a highly volatile region and dangerous neighborhood it has been experiencing years of political instability as well as terrorist activities within and in neighboring countries. In such an environment, control of the nuclear program is ensured through special and enhanced security. Terrorist incidents, particularly those targeting the nuclear installations can raise concern regarding nuclear safety and security.
Again, in this regard, Pakistan has an excellent record of nuclear safety and security. Pakistan has, time and again, shown its determination in ensuring nuclear security. Training, personnel screening and best practices are some of the areas where Pakistan has collaborated with United States. Also, it is actively participating in various international platforms which are working to prevent nuclear terrorism and improve nuclear security. Pakistan participated at the highest level in the four Nuclear Security summits held in the last decade. Tremendous work has been done domestically for improvement of legal and regulatory framework for preventing proliferation of sensitive materials and technologies. the authorities in Pakistan recognize that they cannot afford loss of control in nuclear safety. But there is room for more work that Pakistan can perform to win confidence of international community that its nuclear program has highest level of safety and security.
In this regard, firstly, there is the need to accept all international instruments that underpin the current nuclear security regime, including the nuclear terrorism convention and the 2005 amendment to the convention on physical protection. Also, as the Fukushima nuclear accident highlighted, the decision by any country, developed or developing, to remain insular and opaque on matters of nuclear safety and security can be harmful to that country and its neighbors.
Although the sovereign control of nuclear assets remains the dominant model at present, there is an increasing recognition that countries have an international responsibility to prevent the unauthorized release of radiation or the theft of materials from their facilities. Both dangers directly affect other countries. These concepts of sovereignty and international responsibility should be concurrently followed. Both are important and need to be balanced.
There should be a commitment to the highest levels of nuclear security at home and a willingness to provide nonsensitive information on these actions to the global community. This process could begin with the actions listed above, first as a voluntary activity and then evolving into a codified requirement for all countries over time. These steps offer the best combination of assurances and can improve international confidence in Pakistan’s nuclear security.
4. Counter-terrorism is a long-term theme, what do you suggest for the counter-terrorism cooperation mechanism in South Asia? What are your expectations for China-Pakistan cooperation in counter-terrorism?
The inefficacy of SAARC as a regional organization ultimately brings us at the doors of United Nations and its role in promoting counter terrorism cooperation as well as activities to build capacity in the region. By using an all-inclusive strategy, UN can help in shaping a regional response to terrorism. Under the direction of, Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the UN should carve a strategy for an engagement so that the global body could be more closely linked to South Asian counterterrorism needs.
The cross-border dimension of many of the internal, often interrelated, security crises that affect South Asian states highlights the importance of developing an effective, broad-based regional response to the threat. Despite declarations about the growing need for enhanced collaboration among regional states on such issues, this cooperation has been slow to materialize in South Asia.
South Asian leaders should develop a regional strategy for addressing the terrorist threat that involves not just all members of SAARC, but partner countries and the United Nations. Such a strategy could include recognition of terrorism as a challenge to human security and developmental goals. In this respect, the creation of a common database for sharing intelligence and other information among regional countries can prove highly beneficial. Regular meetings of intelligence agencies officials and defense establishments can be another way of enhancing cooperation and collaboration across South Asia. At a practical level, a regional as well as technical counter terrorism mechanism which might not be related to SAARC should be implemented to stimulate the cooperation at functional level.
China-Pakistan Counter Terrorism Collaboration
Pakistan and China enjoy unstinted partnership that has gradually matured into a strategic relationship. Widespread dangers of terrorism and its proliferation have been instrumental in shaping the security policies of both countries, both internally and externally. Counter terrorism is an emergent facet of synchronized effort, quite akin to the ever-increasing collaboration in the field of economic cooperation and, in infrastructure development. Counter terrorism cooperation needs to be kinetic only. The root causes of terrorism residing in society, such as socioeconomic deprivation and radicalization can be addressed by characterizing it as indirect approach for counter terrorism collaboration. Joint intelligence, sophisticated counter terrorism intelligence, capacity building can be other tools in counter terrorism cooperation between Pakistan and China.
With the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, China should opt for enhanced diplomatic and economic support. Regional co-opting approach should be pursued more vigorously to bring ease in Afghan imbroglio. China, as global power, can cooperate in counter terrorism by supporting and engaging diplomatically for an Afghan-led and Afghan owned political reconciliation which would eradicate terrorism and instability from Afghanistan.
5. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged a few days ago to end the years-long conflict in Afghanistan through a political solution. How do you see the situation of the war on terror in Afghanistan? What are your suggestions for a final solution to the Afghan issue?
The idea of the intra-Afghan dialogue was to help resolve the core issues of Afghanistan in a peaceful manner. After years of efforts to solve these problems through militarymeans by all sides, the Afghan government backed by foreign forces on one side and the Taliban and other groups and individual warlords on the other failed, they have been compelled to sit down together to achieve peace through negotiations. Thus there is no option but to resolve the problems through dialogue. If the dialogue process is not successful, the situation will revert back to the status-quo ante.
The Afghan government has prioritized a permanent ceasefire, which the Taliban have rejected, though they have in recent years conducted three limited truces during religious holidays (including in mid-May 2021). Many observers doubt the Taliban would agree to abandon violence, arguably their main source of leverage, before an intra-Afghan political settlement, though targeted reductions in violence could pave the way for a more comprehensive ceasefire.
Under the Biden Administration, U.S. officials have expressed an intention to continue “over-thehorizon” counterterrorism efforts after U.S. troops depart Afghanistan. In his April 14 address, President Biden said, “We’ll reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists” in Afghanistan.20 Questions remain as to what such an effort might look like in practice, and what the potential logistical, political, financial challenges might be, including establishing new arrangements with Afghan partners and new basing options outside of Afghanistan.
Success of the Afghan Peace Process is essential for peace in the region. Afghanistan needs a peace deal negotiated among the Afghans without any outside interference. Turmoil in Afghanistan will be disastrous for the Afghans and a source of instability for the region. It will become a haven for terrorist groups like Alqaeda and the IS who will attempt to destabilise the neighbouring countries. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan will lead not only to its own economic development but also act as a bridge for regional trade between South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.
An agreement negotiated by all Afghan parties without outside interference is the only way to finally bring lasting peace after four decades of strife, turmoil and misery that the country has suffered. Once an agreement has been reached the international community should remain engaged with the country for its socio-economic development. Afghans are hard working and the country is rich in natural resources. Peace will bring prosperity locally and economic benefits to the region.
Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu