Mr Athar Yad Ali is a brave citizen who, in a daring action on January 3, 2015, managed to stop a driver-less 22 wheeler truck, whose brakes had failed at Salt Range, Motorway. His action prevented men and material losses and speaks volumes about his courage and sense of responsibility as a citizen.
Interview By: Asif Jehangir Raja
Q. The video of your brave action of halting a driver-less heavy truck at the Salt Range area on the Motorway on Jan 3, 2015 went viral on web. Please share the details of the incident with us.
My wife, two sons and I were on the Motorway, enroute to Lahore from Islamabad, when we noticed an unmanned 22 wheeler truck making its way down the road in an abnormal manner. After observing it for some time in the back view mirror, it became evident that the brakes of the truck had failed. Moreover, we also noticed that the truck was without driver meaning that the driver had probably jumped off after noticing the brake failure. The Salt Range is one of the most dangerous portions for any kind of traffic, especially the heavy vehicles, on the Motorway. An unmanned truck could cause man and material losses and to the vehicles commuting on the Motorway. My children were making a video of the truck. After hoping for the truck to come to a halt which wasn’t happening, I noticed a slope coming which could cause a lot of damage and then within a spilt-second I decided that I had to stop it before it was too late.
Q. In the video, your children and family is heard advising you not to attempt any such adventure. What prompted you to take such a decision despite opposition?
My children were making a video of the truck. However after seeing that the truck just wasn’t stopping and there was a slope ahead, I decided to be more than a mere spectator and took charge of the situation. So I got off from my car and mounted on the truck. If the truck wasn't stopped it could have led to a disastrous situation. I didn't want to leave this to chance and took my chance; and all praise to Allah, it paid off.
Q. How did you manage to stop the truck on a slope whose brakes had failed?
It was essentially a very basic Physics law that I applied to stop the truck. After jumping behind the steering wheel, I kept swerving the truck into the divider and used the tyres fixed on the roadside wall to break the momentum which slowed its speed. I continued doing so for about 2 kilometers and eventually the truck came to a halt.
Q. Were you fearful at any moment of your brave action? What were your feelings while you were undergoing this action?
Honestly, it was the use of cool logic under pressure. Once you take the decision to put yourself in a seemingly dangerous situation, you have to eliminate all fears and replace them with logic; that is the only way to come out of it unscathed.
Q. Did you attempt any brave action of similar nature in your life previously?
Yes, on several occasions.
Q. How does your family feel now?
Besides being relieved that nothing happened to me, they are proud of me.
Q. You have attained height of fame after this incident. What are your feelings?
I didn't intend for the fame to come to me. It was a split second decision that I took to prevent the terrible accident and something that I thought might help others.
Honestly, I am not a hero. I only hope that any Pakistani who could be involved in a similar situation would surely act to help. I just hope that people take this as an inspiration and should help our fellow countrymen and the nation. All praise to Allah, the Almighty.
Q. What is your message for the readers of Hilal?
To always put the needs of others before yours for the greater goal of peace, prosperity and unity of the country. We are all citizens of this great country that we live in and we need to work for peace and harmony. Remember our deeds are accounted for, good and bad. So every chance one gets, should increase the good.
Pakistan is passing through challenging times and terrorism has hit us hard. As member of the civil society, we all shall remain vigilant, and upon watching any suspicious terrorist activity, must inform the concerned authorities and also make all efforts to stop such individuals from barbaric acts.
Q: Briefly explain us the external and internal security challenges Pakistan is facing today? What and how should we prioritize the response so as not to lose balance against any of the foes?
Answer: Pakistan is bedeviled by both external and internal challenges at present. The departure of US Forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, after having left behind a small force, will impact the internal and external security matrix of Pakistan. It will be a key thing for Pakistan to watch that things develop smoothly in Afghanistan because if, for any reason, it doesn't stabilize and continues to be riddled with uncertainties in the aftermath of a decade long stay of NATO / ISAF, and an internal strife develops just as it happened in 1989, it will definitely have very negative implications on Pakistan's internal security situation. Pakistan would have liked internal peace process for stability in Afghanistan to commence; but that isn't the case and Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between USA and Afghanistan hasn't been signed as yet. One can assume about presence of some American Forces in Afghanistan after 2014 but uncertainties those prevail in Afghanistan can make things difficult for our country and lack of stability in Afghanistan will have impact on Pakistan.
The border management between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be another key to our need for domestic stability. After different operations in FATA and Swat by Pak Army, most of these terrorists crossed over the border and moved to Kunar and Nuristan regions of Afghanistan. And even now, if there is an operation in North Waziristan, the terrorists may still move into ungoverned adjacent areas of Afghanistan located on the border areas with Pakistan. This shall mean a continuous interference from outside into Pakistan's territory. Another concern is Afghanistan's proxy meddling in Pakistan. Afghans have been alleging Pakistan as responsible for few incidents of violence in their territory but what is more alarming, are the reports of Afghan groups, or Afghan sponsored groups, carrying out activities inside Pakistan.
India is always there as a point of concern for us simply because two third of its forces continue to be deployed along its borders with Pakistan. Although Pakistan has pulled out some of its forces from Eastern border, however, Pakistan will continue to very consciously watch its East. This is how I view the external security challenges to Pakistan.
On the internal front, Pakistan has even bigger challenges. I shall briefly recount each one of these. First is the lack of governance and enfeebled capacity to administer within the Pakistani state. As a result it has begun to appear weak, irresolute, incapable of functioning even averagely. This situation is posing few questions into the minds of people of Pakistan as the basic contract of the state with its citizens and people is under question. Next most dominating and prevalent problem for Pakistan is terrorism which will also continue to bother us for sometime because of being multidimensional. The inability to respond to it properly during last few years shows the state in very poor light. In addition to these problems include economic issues, division within society; add to it the poor polity, the confrontation within institutions and perceptions arising out of military takeovers. These things have divided the body of our society which remains a very pervasive threat to our cohesion. The culture of radicalism, extremism and terrorism is manifested in the guulies & coochas (streets & lanes) of our cities. So you need to have a very comprehensive way of looking at security of Pakistan. If we think that only through policy of non-interference in Afghanistan and conducting operation in FATA and North Waziristan, we are at peace No we aren't. The challenges are huge. The leadership of today has much work to do. I don't see that happening. If military leadership is doing its work and keeping things in order in their domain, it's like an island among others who have, frankly, gone astray. We need to somehow bring the entire system back into resonance.
Q. In post-9/11 scenario, Pakistan was left with little choices but to combat terrorism to stay aligned with the world community. Today, after fighting this war for over thirteen years, the international forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of this year. Where do you see the “War on Terror” going in internal and external context?
Answer: There are certain things that have happened on the world map, particularly in the cultural or civilizational context. For example, where does Al-Qaeda stand today? Is Al-Qaeda a dead phenomenon? Will it survive as a movement? How many ideologues continue to populate it? What kind of leadership influence will they exercise? Will it have a leadership that will justly replace Osama Bin Laden's (OBL) bent of mind? Even if he was a passive figure, he was important for Al-Qaeda movement to generate ideas and thoughts the world over in Muslims. A question may be asked that why do people of Islam feel wronged? Why should they fall for something as populist or driven as OBL espoused? Simply because there are problems in Islam and in Muslim nations which have not been resolved for a long time. Palestine being one; Iraq and the wrongs there are another; Arab Spring creating this tumult in the Arab world. This is a cause of concern for Muslims all over the world, at least in their perception. Secondly, many of the Middle Eastern nations have been autocratic. People have been led by monarchies and dictators for years and decades; and in most cases have remained oppressed. A democratic order has rarely been practiced in true spirit. This has given cause to cleavages within the Muslim world; others have tended to exploit these. The induction of social media and the internet enabled people to galvanise ideas and movements against such repression. Unless given their rights people have this tendency to resort to force; they could also be encouraged to adopt militancy as a way of fighting for their cause. A pervasiveness of such trends, mostly in the Islamic world, tends to grant it a civilisational hue.
If leadership remains available to this trend of movements in the Islamic world, I see it going either way: remaining political and agitational to earn political rights; or, remaining tied to the militant ways to spawn a persisting Al Qaeda type phenomenon. We should know how terrorism comes about? Radicalisation in a society converts to extremism. Extremists then pick up arms and becomes militants which then resorts to terror to impose their will. There are enough number of people who fund this entire franchise. Therefore you may see that Al-Qaeda will stay, so terrorism might also stay.
Internally for Pakistan: one, Afghanistan needs to stabilize. Two, proxy wars on sectarian lines between Islamic countries must not let to be fought on the soil of Pakistan. It has to be stopped. Third, all ends must be secured to cover our internal dimensions, as I explained in one of my earlier responses. The link of radicalism and terrorism and how it connects, from where does the money comes in, how effective are our laws, how effectively we prosecute terrorists and how quickly we convict and punish them. Deterrence of the real value needs to be put into place. And only then can we control this menace. Framing of law and then law enforcement will be the key to managing our internal security situation.
Terrorism will stay in Pakistan till the time our policy structures, government structures, governance and administrative structures develop capacity and ability to fight this menace. Unfortunately it is not going to get away so easily. Terrorism will have to be fought and won against. We will have to integrate the clergy and Ulema in developing a narrative that defies radicalism and extremism from our midst. Only when these divisions are finished and the nation becomes one, will it then have the capacity to fight the threat of terrorism.
Q. “Dialogue and Deterrence” is a visible strategy on scene in the current war with violent forces in Pakistan. How we need to strategize the both so as to ensure peace for the people within constitutional domains of a democratic, free and pluralistic Pakistan?
Answer: There are two dimensions of terrorism in Pakistan. One is terrorism at the borders and fringes; for example, FATA, North Waziristan, provinces of Kunar and Nuristan towards other side of the border, and four other provinces of Afghanistan with Pakistan including Paktia, Paktika, Nangarhar and Khost. These six provinces can be a cause for future trouble for Pakistan unless we handle here-on our matters with extremists in FATA. Since all of this is the border regions, there management becomes important and imperative.
When people say that forces should be withdrawn from North Waziristan as part of quid pro quo for peace in FATA and North Waziristan, it becomes a non starter. You will need the army in these regions on a more sustainable basis to control the borders and ensure peace. We need to cross the rubicon of tradition and place our military in FATA. We may even have to establish permanent garrisons in the troubled areas. There is already military presence in that area and we will need to add numbers to ensure better management of borders. Currently the state is trying to work out whether the dialogue works? If the indicators aren't there, there are alternate options. The retaliatory air strikes were just a glimpse of what can follow.
Third aspect is to fight terrorism inside our own nation. The internal security policy that this government came out with few days back is not a bad way to start but it is still incomplete. The issue is not simply about police, civil bureaucracy, religion and Madrassah. It is actually aimed at changing ethos of this nation where we are able to recognize and understand, as a nation, about a threat which endangers all as a society. For example, if I need to rent away a house, I must make sure it has not been rented to the wrong people. Similarly these terrorists come to the cities and hire transport or even buy it for their ulterior purposes. People must have the awareness to report the matter to the police and the agencies. I was in England in 1992 for few years. Those were the days when Irish Republican Army (IRA) issue was at its peak. I saw the whole British nation aware and sensitive to their societal responsibilities. We, unfortunately, as a society do not have this kind of discipline, awareness, education or ethos to be able to think of a problem on these lines. We will have to change this culture. It is not your problem, my problem or even his; it is problem of every member of this nation. This is an area that our leadership has not been able to ingrain in our people and to introduce it as a culture. There cannot be any compromise on the Constitution of Pakistan. There cannot be any compromise on geographical entity of Pakistan. There cannot be a compromise on system of governance in Pakistan. Even if someone wants to impose Sharia, it must be done through Constitutional means. We have the Shariat Court; we have Council of Islamic Ideology (CII); no doubt there are areas that we may need to work on but simply stating that ours is not an Islamic Republic is perhaps the biggest of the fallacies that anyone can generate in the minds of public. We are very lucky to have a constitution that was agreed upon by all politicians, and all shades of religion, in 1973.
Q. You remained ambassador in Sri Lanka that fought a prolonged insurgency. What are the relevant lessons for Pakistan to successfully tackle the issues of terrorism and militancy?
Answer: Incidentally I assumed appointment of Ambassador when the operation against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had just begun and was concluded before completion of my tenure in 2009. During the insurgency period of almost 27 years, different Sri Lankan governments alternated between the options of dialogue and small operations with the insurgents. There had never been a full-fledged war meant to win it and most of the operations were conducted to recover the lost land. There is a famous Elephant Pass that connects Jaffna with areas dominated by (LTTE). This pass was the usual bone of contention; sometimes government would occupy it and sometimes LTTE, and the war went around that pass. Many of their military heroes are the ones who recovered this pass from LTTE and gave it back to the government. But no one actually took the war to the enemy.
Large part of North East of Sri Lanka was LTTE area which was without writ of the government, almost in the similar fashion that some of agencies in FATA are without it today. The current President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who came in power in 2005, often stated that 'we need to do something to resolve LTTE issue'. The narrative was built, spread and suddenly, for a change, everyone in the system, government and public felt the same way and followed the line that they needed to do something about it. A tough army Commander appreciated the situation and assessed that LTTE could only be taken out by war. He decided to use this option of operation against the insurgents. Almost 30 months / 2.5 years of war was put into place. It was a full scale war in which entire area of North East and North Sri Lanka was recovered from LTTE and they were defeated.
What did Sri Lankans do to achieve it? It was through a clear-cut political resolve. They were under tremendous pressure; local pressure, external pressure from USA, Europe and, India, because almost 80 million Tamils live around the world who posed a serious challenge to the Sri Lankan government. But they sustained this pressure and gave free hand to their military to tackle the situation. They gave full support to their military, bought them new military hardware, aeroplanes, helicopters, revived their dead Air Force, and asked them to concentrate on war without worrying for external fronts. This was a milestone achievement by Sri Lankans and set a record of eliminating insurgency through war in the recent history. This operation has brought many positive results for that country; today you visit Sri Lanka, you find them reaping the benefits of peace. A country now on a much faster pace of development; fastest growing country in South Asia, and may even earn the status of the most developed country in South Asia in the next five years.
When you make decisions, you must stick to them. There is never a perfect solution to any problem. But you value your judgment based on where majority of the good lies, let your people stand behind it, stick to the task and any goal can be achieved. That is how nations work. You can't really dither between dialogue and operation and again dialogue, looking for an easier way. There is no easier way out; when you want something for your country you need to go on and work for it.
Q. War in Afghanistan is one of the reasons for many troubles in Pakistan. Where do you see Afghanistan in post-2014 scenario and what measures Pakistan should take to safeguard against any negative fallout?
Answer: Because of lack of peace process in Afghanistan, it leaves the situation very tenuous internally in terms of sustainability and stability of the political system. The Afghan National Army (ANA) does not have the capacity to do what NATO and ISAF have been doing for the past many years. Perhaps it will never attain that capability and quality. The way ANA has been formed, it needs approximately 4 to 5 billion dollars to sustain itself. Almost 90 % of the current budget of Afghanistan is pumped through external sources. USA and Europeans countries are spending an annual amount of approximately 13 billion dollars in Afghanistan. When they leave, most of this help will also go, leaving Afghanistan with approximately 10 billion dollars as total size of their economy, and she will have very little capacity to sustain the ANA. So this will make situation tenuous for Afghanistan internally and will make it untenable as a state, a situation that can create difficulties for Pakistan.
So fallout of post 2014 should be of great concern to us. What we could not do in 1989/1990, we need to do today. Manage this border very strongly and firmly. Hold the border regardless of the sensitivities that have in the past made it into a loose border. This is the time to try out and work out difficulties and find solutions to the issues that we have not been able to do in our earlier history with Afghanistan. We must convey to Afghanistan our need to manage our borders with them more effectively. But before doing this, Pakistan should also ensure elimination of terrorist in its tribal regions.
We also need to make sure that our cities, metropolises, Qasbas, towns and villages are taken care of. We have to ensure that police and bureaucracy are functioning well. Intelligence should be doing its job perfectly and needs to lead this drive against menace of terrorism. We should not interfere in Afghan internal matters, but ensure the sanctity of our own space. Beyond the sensitivity that neighbours might possess nations today are and must be run by own national interests.
Q. A “Two Front War” has worried many countries of the world in the past. How do you view Indian involvement in Afghanistan?
Answer: Our internal situation is what is going to give a cause for worry when we consider how India might become a concern with their increasing influence in Afghanistan. And more than Indians, it will be the Afghan Intelligence that is going to give us trouble. During the Karzai government Afghan Intelligence and Ministry of Interior have maintained a hostile stance against Pakistan. I feel that carryover of this sentiment will affect Pakistan badly in the days to come. As long as Balochistan, KPK and FATA are well governed and are politically more stable, rule of law is in place, economic dividends and benefits are transferred to the people, we will find that the cleavages that have impacted the society at large, and specially at these places where we either have a nationalist, religious or ideological anti-state sentiment, the capacity will automatically exist to fight off adverse external influence. <?p>
Q. Peace Dialogue with India has also not proceeded to any conclusive stage primarily due to Indian inflexible attitude on core issues. Contrarily, we also hear belligerent talk and witness offensive mindset manifesting in doctrines like Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). How much menacing is the threat from the Eastern neighbour with particular reference to rise of political Hindu chauvinism?
Answer: The arrival of Narendra Modi as a probable future Prime Minister of India has raised relevant concerns, not only for Pakistan, but also for India itself. He has invested much of political capital in trying to appease the extremist Right-Wing Hindu sentiment with his anti Pakistan rhetoric. When chosen as the PM he will find it difficult to distance himself from what he has already committed to. So when he has invested so much in playing with people's sentiments, he will have to play by rules that he had set for himself which in turn border at the hard-line. Another point to worry in such an eventuality is India and Pakistan being nuclear nations. These nations are historically put on a war path even with rhetoric as a starting point or as a starting trigger and then leading on to some clashes here and there and snowballing into an operational engagement. It can lead to what can be an unintended conflagration. I don't think Modi will go that way if he has any sense and I hope he displays that when sits as the Prime Minister. This is the philosophy of Hindu chauvinism driven by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and used by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to buy votes.
So if it becomes Modi's way of governing then it doesn't bode well for the region. But I hope when he becomes the Prime Minister, his thoughts of running the Indian state change. When Vajpayee, again from the BJP, took the chair in India, he was actually the one who initiated the move to improve relationship with Pakistan. Although Modi is not Vajapayee, but there is always a balance that responsibility brings into your way of looking at things. I hope that when he sits in that chair, he becomes more responsible.
The current environment between India and Pakistan has also changed a bit. It is a fact that there is history of our unresolved problems, territorial difficulties and political issues that have driven hostilities between both countries. Kashmir being what it is, a core issue, leaving it unresolved will mean a resident hostility which will keep coming to the surface. Not that Pakistan wants to go this way, but India too looks at Pakistan with great suspicion because of Kashmir. Then there is Siachen dispute, Sir Creek problem; post-Mumbai terrorism from the Indian standpoint has become an equally central issue. As of now, India only wants to talk about Trade & Terrorism with Pakistan and nothing else. In my assessment, in presence of all such issues, hostilities will continue between both countries.
Under a nuclear umbrella that gives strategic balance to this region conventional war of the way that we have known, is now not a possibility. That's why we find that both nations, in the eyes of neutral observers, have now gone on in unconventional ways of pursuing their political objectives. We blame Indians for what they do in Balochistan, FATA, KPK and Karachi, and correspondingly, Indians blame us for what has happened in Kashmir and Mumbai. So there is a whole history of defining this new paradigm of proxy engagement on both sides. That's how India-Pakistan equations look like today. Obviously this needs to be changed.
In my opinion, to move forward, you need to change the paradigm of issues that you get engaged on. For example, if you fix your engagement on Siachen, Sir Creek, Kashmir, terrorism etc, you will only talk against each other, you will talk at each other, but you never talk with each other. If you want to talk with each other in more cooperative ways then you need to replace these issues with more cooperative issues which can be; for example, caring for a common water source, which is the five rivers controlled through the Indus Water Treaty, and the glaciers which feed these rivers; resolving Siachen dispute, looking for options on Kashmir in a way that is acceptable to both sides, talking for methods of poverty alleviation, looking at reduction of diseases in both regions. We need to discover a common methodology to deal with issues which are common and which can foster cooperative approaches. For this though mindsets need to change in India. Mindsets have changed in Pakistan. But I don't see this happening very quickly in India, especially with Mr. Modi coming in.
Coming to two front scenario, I don't think India will have the capacity and ability to go over Pakistan and try to be a source of concern for Pakistan while being in Afghanistan. We need to look at our border control with adjacent regions, especially Afghanistan, and improve them. Secondly if we maintain good relations with Afghanistan we should being neighbours that will deny the Indians the opportunity to cause mischief from there. Even in our current situation of fighting internally against terrorism, their facilitated unrest in Balochistan and other areas has not caused the state to unravel, I therefore don't see any greater Indian capacity or ability to do much damage to Pakistan. As a strong and resilient nation, we should try to ensure that these things don't impact us.
Q. Being an Air Force officer, how do you view capabilities of Indian Air Force, its likely role in the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) and suggested counter measures?
Answer: When nations know that they can't fight a regular war then they will resort to alternate strategies. A nation as large as India with huge Armed Forces, if it resorts to a strategy like Cold Start, it will remain a defeatist application without any hinged political objective. It might allow Indian forces penetration of ten to fifteen kilometers depending upon the area, but is unlikely to provide strategic dividends. Every nation goes to war or imposes force with clear political objectives but what shall India gain after occupying shallow depths, if at all. Pakistan could react similarly. I do not see much operational sense in resorting to CSD. It is defeatist way of applying force. It is not how nations should apply military force.
Armed forces are meant to provide you the capability to support your politico-military objectives. The Indian Navy may have a political objective of dominating the Indian Ocean, but the Pakistani Navy has no such matching political objective to pursue. Both Navies are therefore structured accordingly. Armed forces are sized, trained and organized to deliver their specific politico-military goals. Similarly our Air Force has a specific role to play. For that role, it has been trained, equipped and resourced. Indian Air Force (IAF) has its own objectives. No doubt that IAF has made some significant addition to their capacity and capability in last ten to fifteen years. India for the last five years is the largest buyer of military hardware and equipment all over the world. Indian Defence Budget is more than the total budget of Pakistan. Their goals and objectives are different from those of Pakistan and they structure their forces thus.
Q. Your comments on Indo-US Strategic Partnership and its impact on regional stability?
Answer: USA has been trying to woo India for strategic partnership for a long time. India now has liquidity (money) available to them. This money drives everyone in the world. The Chinese have the biggest amount of cash available to them. This is the reason that US, despite how competitive they feel with China, have closest economic relations with them. They are not going to go to war with China simply because of the reason that they get loans and investments from them. Same is the case with India. Americans have been trying to attract Indians by offering them fighters, transport aeroplanes, artillery pieces etc. Indians have been smart in a way that they have kept Americans at a distance and have also retained their relationship with Russians. Because still 90% of Indian military inventory is Russian based and they need relations with them for sustainability of their equipment. Indo-US Nuclear Deal is of much greater concern to us. Because by striking this deal, US has granted a de-jure acceptability to India as a nuclear nation with options to trade in nuclear materials with many countries of the world which form part of Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). Although both India and Pakistan have strategic and nuclear balance, but implicit acceptance of India as a legitimate nuclear power while denying the same to Pakistan is a matter of concern to us.
Dynamics are changing world over. The relationships are becoming much more realistic. What nations need, determines their relationship with the other states. We should not be shy of accepting the fact that while India will have much greater circle of friends, Pakistan must work equally hard to have a similar circle of friends. There is no exclusivity in relationships between countries in international politics. If Russians, Americans and Chinese happen to be friends of India, they can also be friends of Pakistan. Since the Cold War days are over, the world is no more a neat division of sides. Relationships now are much more inclusive.
Q. Russia and China are among two important poles in the emerging multi-polar world, and, terrorism is an important concern for both the countries. How would these two countries be taking position on issues of terrorism in post-2014 years particularly if Afghanistan and its bordering areas are not secured and used by militant forces?
Answer: As we are threatened by terrorism, so is the a universal concern regarding militancy as long as civilizational sensitivities, civilizational proclivities, civilizational deprivations continue to drive young people of Islam into the fold of militancy and terror. It may not only be that it is only Islamic terrorism that is going to become a factor, there will be number of other factors such as Hindu chauvinism. That is shaping itself as the next threat as far our region is concerned. Unless India has capacity to curtail and cap the sentiment of Hindu nationalism we may find ourselves into an even bigger conundrum. US President George Bush used the word of Crusade after incident of 9/11. Even in Europe, an insane person opened fire on so many people for being Muslims. China has a problem in Xinjiang, Russia has a problem with Chechnya, USA has a problem with Al-Qaeda, India has currently many problems like Kashmir and the Naxalites?
So the entire world would continue to be susceptible and concerned about terrorism and that is why China and Russia will also be equally involved. This is why there is a need for much more cooperative mechanisms in the world to handle terrorism. At the regional level if India itself wants to avoid being targeted by this kind of sentiments then it needs to become partners with Pakistan to fight this menace. Similarly rest of the countries including China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asian countries need to work together. Central Asian countries are also home to many insurgent movements. This is actually a transitional point in history which needs to be better managed with much more cooperation at international level.
Q. If we critically analyze the recent developments particularly in few important Muslim countries, the Muslim World seems drifting to an Intra-civilizational Clash on sectarian fault lines. How do you see this threat overall and also with reference to Pakistan?
Answer: There are two triggers of sectarianism that have impacted Pakistan, region and the Islamic world. First is the Arab-Israel problem that has gradually gravitated to a point where Israel seems to be in continuous hostility with Muslim world, essentially with Hamas in Palestine and Hizb Ullah in Lebanon. What does it do? It generates sentiment in Syria, which then generates sentiments in Iran. There is thus Shia sensitivity triggered around a geopolitical issue related to Israel. This hypes Shiaism; see what happened in Iraq when Saddam left; Kuwait too has a large proportion of Shia population; the Syrian crisis too has a large Shia overhang. There is also a parallel strain called Wahabi Islam. How? After 1979 when Pakistan became part of war against Russia, the money came from few friendly countries. These countries have particularly been exporting funds; and therefore their religious sentiment or religious thought of their specific way of looking at Islam.
These two strains or two triggers have given cause for this chasm to be more prominently seen and therefore exploited by people. Anyone who wants to weaken Islam will exploit these two areas and will feed either of the two sects to create differences. This to me will be ultimate disaster for the Muslims and religion of Islam. There is a need for Muslim scholars to come forward and keep people united and clearly declare their abhorrence for violent means.
Q. What measures we need to adopt as a state and society to harness violent sectarianism in Pakistan?
Answer: As long as people have shared stakes in the well being of a society, people will care for their society. A stable society will foster a stable state. If people know that their tomorrow is attached with progress of the state, and the future of their children is related with well being of the state, they will protect it. This package of stakes includes justice system, administration, governance, economy; which if provided to the individuals will make this society strong.
But this well being can't be achieved through talks, lectures or promises alone. It needs practical measures to ensure committed governance, able administration, rule of law and merit. Narratives are never coined and forced down the throats. Stable and progressive societies evolve their own narratives which become a binding force for a shared hope and a common future. A hope for our tomorrow being better than our today is the key to societal stability and success.
Q. How do you view absence or presence of efficient governance, poverty, and social injustices in broader context of tackling violence and ensuring peace in the society?
Answer: As I said earlier, hope is the key to success to address all issues. People lose hope due to lack of governance, mal administration, lack of justice, absence of law and order. The nation gets united, not by replacing paradigms and replacing narratives; it will become united by making people stake holders in the system for common benefit to all. This strategy will eliminate 80% problems of Pakistan. The politicians must lead this nation better than what they have exhibited
Q1. You were born in England and have your roots in Pakistan. Please tell us something about your upbringing and family background.
Answer: My family is originally from Matore in Pakistan. It is a town in Tehsil Kahuta, District Rawalpindi. This is where my grandparents came from and I still have many relatives and family living there today. I am from Rajput family and I am very proud of having a Pakistani background.
I try to visit my home back often when I am not training or busy working. My grandparents moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s, like many did from Pakistan due to the economic opportunities at that time.
My family is settled in Bolton, which is in the North West of England, near Manchester, and we have been here ever since.
Q2. From a child to winning WBA Light Welterweight title at the tender age of 22, your life appears to have seen successes too early too quick. How has this journey been all along?
Answer: It's been a great journey and one that I am very proud of. It started at a young age by winning an Olympic Silver Medal when I was 17 and since then it's just got better and better.
I won the World Boxing Association (WBA) Light-Welterweight title and then I also beat Zab Judah to win the International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt which is another recognised world title. I've shared the ring with some great fighters and fought on some huge shows in America so I am pleased with how my career has developed.
Q3. Having your roots from a country that has the passion and love for Cricket and Hockey, how did you manage to become a boxer?
Answer: My father took me to the gym when I was eight because I was so hyperactive and he thought this would help burn all my energy. He was right – it did – but I also grew to love boxing and I couldn't wait to go to the gym everyday to workout and learn. Boxing has always been my passion above any other sport.
Q4. What takes it to become a world boxing champion?
Answer: I think talent and hardwork. Without either it's not possible to become a world champion. It doesn't matter how much natural talent you have, you have to work very hard and put in a lot of work to get to the very top.
Q5. You challenged Floyd Mayweather from USA, who is an undefeated boxing champion, an action that is appreciated by people around the world. Please share your feelings with us.
Answer: It's my dream to be in the biggest and best fights and at the moment Floyd Mayweather is regarded as the best fighter on the planet. I would love to fight him if the opportunity was there because I think it would be a great match up and very exciting for the fans. I have the tools to test any fighter and I believe with my speed and style it would be a very interesting fight if it ever happens.
Q6. “A hard boxer in the ring is soft at heart and loves his wife, Faryal Makhdom.” How do you explain this statement?
Answer: I got married last year and I am very happy. Faryal definitely brings out the softer side in me and we're extremely happy together. She's very special to me and the time we've been together has been the happiest of my life.
Q7. Please share with us memories of your best bout.
Answer: I would say when I beat Andriy Kotelnik to win my first world title, has so far been the best one. It was always my dream to become a world champion and to win the WBA belt was unbelievable because all the hardwork over the years to realise this dream had finally paid off. I was perfect that night, stuck to the gameplan and dominated the fight over twelve rounds – I can't ever forget it.
Q8. What measure should be taken in Pakistan to promote the challenging game of boxing?
Answer: Boxing needs more investment from the government and authorities to help promote it and get the young kids to take it up. The country needs more gyms and qualified trainers and to make it accessible to everyone regardless of their economic background. That way boxing can flourish in the country and Pakistan can start developing fighters who are able to challenge at a higher level.
Q9. You have recently announced to make a Boxing Academy in Pakistan. How do you intend to take up this project?
Answer: We have a plan for how we want to develop it and bring boxing to all the people in Pakistan. This academy will be a start where we will have qualified trainers and excellent facilities and equipment for everyone to use. By doing this we hope to encourage young people to take up the sport and give it a try.
Q10. What are your future plans?
Answer: I just want to keep improving and be in the biggest fights possible. My aim now is to win another world title at a different weight and try and establish myself at the very top of the sport. That's what keeps driving me and keeps me motivated for the future.
Q11. What message shall you give to the youth of Pakistan through Hilal Magazine?
Answer: To have a goal, no matter what field or sport they are in, and work as hard as possible to achieve that aim. Hardwork and a vision will take you very far in life.
• While the post-9/11 world was focused on the US military campaign in Afghanistan; India thought it could also take advantage of the global anti-terror sentiment to transform Kashmir into an issue of terrorism.
• The India-Pakistan problems are real. The peace will not come through elusive steps but resorting to resolution of core issues.
• Those who mistakenly believe that trade with India will bring prosperity to Pakistan just need to look at other countries in India’s periphery. They are just consumer markets for Indian goods.
• For better results in foreign policy, we should be focusing more on our domestic perils including the crises of terrorism, energy, economy and law and order.
• In improving its relations with its other neighbours, China makes sure that there is no adverse impact on its special relationship with Pakistan which both countries have built over the decades as an asset of their all-weather friendship.
• The potential of our trade with our partners including China remains totally unharnessed because the continuing energy crisis has seriously constricted our export capacity.
• China and Pakistan represent a natural partnership to work together in converting Pak-Afghanistan border into an economic gateway for the region.
• India’s claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council is nothing but a mockery of the very principles and values that the UN is meant to uphold.
• Any conflictual ‘stalemate’ in Afghan theatre will not be without serious implications for peace and stability of the region.
• Pakistan can play an important role in bringing SCO and ECO together.
• We are confronted today with an extraordinary crisis situation with no parallel in our history. The gravity of this crisis warrants equally extraordinary responses.
• Pak-US relationship is important and a necessity for both sides because of common political, economic and geo-strategic interests
Q. Where do you see the region after US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to India?
Premier Chou En-lai was once asked by a visiting journalist; what in his opinion were the historical effects of the French Revolution of 1789. Premier Chou En-lai’s sage reply was: ‘It is perhaps too early to tell.’’ That response on the surface may have appeared glib but at its deeper level, it was really profound in encapsulating the reality of never-ending impact of global dynamics in international affairs. Any major development of historic magnitude in one country or a region can have long-term implications not only for its own future but also for other nations and regions even centuries later.
President Obama’s recent visit to India, his second in less than two years, was no doubt an event of lasting, albeit ominous, implications for the future of peace and security in this region. It marked further reinforcement of a worrisome Indo-US ‘strategic partnership’ that has been growing since the beginning of this new millennium in the form of nuclear, military and military technology collaboration. During this visit, the two sides announced plans to unlock billions of dollars in military and nuclear trade as the bedrock of their burgeoning alliance. Their Defence Trade Technological Initiative involves massive collaboration in terms of joint ‘pathfinder’ projects including joint production of drone aircraft and equipment for C-130 military planes, cooperation on aircraft carriers and jet-engine technology and upgrading of their joint military and naval exercises. Obviously, in building up this new nuclear and military alliance, the US has its own priorities as part of its larger China-driven Asian agenda in pursuit of its worldwide political and economic power. Washington also views India as a vast market and potential counterweight to China's growing influence in Asia. India on its part is seeking to use this partnership for its grandiose ambitions of a global status and is gloating over Obama’s endorsement of its designs for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Based on their respective goals and expediencies, the two partners are playing on Kautilya’s game plan to cope with what they both see as the spectre of Rising China. The future of this partnership will depend not on the avowed interests of its signatories but on how other major countries in the region affected by this strategic alliance feel compelled to respond to preserve their own security interests. It seems to be the beginning of a new round of Cold War. The only difference is that this time, India stands on the other side of the rivalry pole. But if history is any lesson, things never remain static. They keep changing as the world and its dynamics do by the inevitable process of change that is always inherent in the rise and fall of power. One has to see how the regional and global dynamics shape up in response to this new configuration of power. Actions are bound to provoke reactions. The politics of alliances and alignments will not be without serious implications for strategic stability in this region.
If the turbulent history of this part of the world had any lessons, US engagement in this nuclearised region should have been aimed at promoting strategic balance rather than disturbing it. Washington should have been eschewing discriminatory policies in dealing with India-Pakistan nuclear equation, the only one in the world that grew up in history totally unrelated to the Cold War. But this never happened. Instead, the U.S. gave India a country-specific nuclear deal with a carte blanche in the Nuclear Suppliers Group for access to nuclear technology. A stable nuclear security order is what we need in South Asia. Any measures that contribute to lowering of the nuclear threshold and fuelling of an arms race between the two nuclear-armed neighbours are no service to the people of this region. Only non-discriminatory criteria-based approaches would be sustainable. Preferential treatment to India in terms of nuclear technology not only widens existing security imbalances in the region but also seriously undermines the prospects of genuine India-Pakistan peace.
Since Pakistan’s actions in the nuclear and missile fields at each stage are force majeure in response to India’s escalatory steps, an element of mutuality in restraint and responsibility is required for nuclear and conventional stabilisation in our region. Obviously, in the face of India’s fast developing capabilities, including its dangerous weapon-inductions, aggressive doctrines and devious nuclear cooperation arrangements enabling diversion of nuclear material for military purposes, equally dangerous options in response become inevitable. It is this reality that last year, The New York Times editorially flagged to question India’s special waiver-based eligibility for NSG membership. Acknowledging that India has long sought to carve out a special exception for itself in the nuclear sphere, The NYT urged the NSG not to accept India’s bid for membership until “it proves itself willing to take a leading role in halting the spread of the world’s most lethal weapons. One way to do that would be by opening negotiations with Pakistan and China to end the dangerous regional nuclear arms race.” In effect, the NYT reinforced Pakistan’s stand for a criteria-based approach in the NSG. Despite the Americans and other Western powers eyeing new lucrative defence and energy contracts in Narendra Modi’s India, the editorial suggested that India’s NSG membership must not be granted until it meets certain non-proliferation benchmarks and resumes talks with its regional rivals on nuclear restraints. It was a timely reminder to the world’s major powers, especially the US, to understand the gravity of the damage they are doing to the cause of peace and stability by giving India country-specific nuclear waivers.
Q: You remained Foreign Secretary of Pakistan. In your views, how India emerges in foreign relations between China and USA particularly after Obama’s visit?
I don’t think after President Obama’s recent visit, India emerges any different in its role and relevance that it already has acquired since its alignment with the US as a regional counterforce against China. If anything, other than a hotline that will now connect Prime Minister Modi and President Obama, there was no groundbreaking or transformational outcome from the Obama visit. The two countries seem to have only reinforced their already existing military and nuclear ties by renewing the 10-year defence treaty for another ten years and agreeing to a notional arrangement for operationalisation of the nuclear deal besides deciding to restart negotiations on a long-pending investment treaty. Ironically, Obama’s visit came within a year since Washington effectively ended its blacklisting of Modi who became a persona non grata in the United States and European Union for his role in the killing of over 2000 Muslims following deadly communal riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002 while he was its Chief Minister. All said and done, critics suggest the Obama visit was high on optics and there is a long way to go before they transform their ‘vision’ into a real partnership. For the moment, the two sides may have just become “more comfortable” in engagement with each other for a common China-driven cause. But both cannot ignore other equally important, if not more pressing, regional and global dynamics. India, in particular, will weigh carefully how this engagement affects its future relationship with China which itself is building new equations in the region backed by the phenomenal growth in its global power and economy.
Q: India cancelled talks between Foreign secretaries of both countries. Should we expect unfolding of a hard core and narrow minded Hindu foreign policy towards Pakistan in coming day by Modi’s government?
This has been a familiar pattern in India’s calculated policy towards Pakistan since 9/11 which every Indian Prime Minister from Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi have followed with one stark message that there will be no dialogue with Pakistan until it deals with cross-border threat of terrorism into India. There is a background to this ugly logjam. While the post-9/11 world was focused on the US military campaign in Afghanistan; India thought it could also take advantage of the global anti-terror sentiment to transform Kashmir into an issue of terrorism. After the attacks on the Kashmir State Assembly building on October 1, 2001 and the Indian parliament building in Delhi on December 13, 2001, India moved all its armed forces to Pakistan's borders as well as along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. Pakistan was blamed for both incidents without any investigations or evidence. South Asia was dragged into a confrontational mode. Intense diplomatic pressure by the US and other G-8 countries averted what could have been a catastrophic clash between the two nuclear states. It was again the constant pressure from the same influential outside powers that the stalled India-Pakistan dialogue was resumed in January 2004 on the basis of “January 6, 2004 Islamabad Joint Statement.” In that ‘Joint Statement’, Pakistan implicitly accepted India’s allegations of Pakistan’s involvement in cross-border activities by solemnly pledging that it will not allow any cross-border activity in future.
Since then, the India-Pakistan peace process has remained hostage to India’s opportunistic mindset. As part of its sinister campaign, India has sought to implicate Pakistan in every act of terrorism on its soil and has kept the dialogue process hostage to its policy of keeping Pakistan under constant pressure on the issue of terrorism. It blamed Pakistan for successive attacks on a train in Mumbai in July 2006, Samjhota Express in February 2007, Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008, and finally the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008, which like the earlier ones were also alleged to have been staged with ulterior motives. And that’s where we are today. India seems to have come to realise that the world today is fixated on terrorism and there could be no better opportunity to exploit this global concern. In a calibrated diversionary campaign, India is only seeking to redefine the real Pakistan-India issues by obfuscating them into the ‘issue of terrorism’ and sporadic incidents of violence across the Line of Control. In its reckoning, the time is ripe for it to pressure Pakistan to an extent where it can surrender on the Kashmir cause. While India is taking full advantage of our domestic failures and weaknesses, our rulers have been giving wrong signals even to the extent of compromising on our principled positions. They don’t even understand that the peace they want will never come by giving up on our vital national causes. The India-Pakistan problems are real and will not disappear or work out on their own as some people in Pakistan pursuing an illusory Aman Ki Asha have lately started believing. Peace in South Asia will remain elusive as long as Kashmir remains under Indian occupation. On other issues too, we cannot ignore India’s illegality in Siachen and Kargil and its ongoing water terrorism in Occupied Kashmir by building dams and reservoirs on Pakistani rivers in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty. Those who mistakenly believe that trade with India will bring prosperity to Pakistan just need to look at other countries in India’s periphery that opened their markets without any level-playing field, and are left today with no industrial potential of their own. They are just consumer markets for Indian goods.
We just cannot opt for that kind of a subservient role in the region. India is not ready for talks with us. There is no point in begging for dialogue. A dignified tactical pause is what we need. We should be focusing more on our domestic perils including the crises of terrorism, energy, economy and law and order. We must consolidate ourselves to be strong enough to negotiate an equitable peace with dignity and honour. A purposeful dialogue and result-oriented engagement on equitable terms is the only acceptable means to resolving India-Pakistan disputes. But to negotiate an honourable peace with India, our own country must first be at peace with itself.
Q: In the past, China-India relations were mostly acrimonious. Of late, both these countries are improving relations particularly in mutual trade. In recent past huge investment in India has been agreed by China. How do you view this whole relation and its impact on the Chinese policy towards other regional countries?
Again, if history is any lesson, things never remain static. They keep changing as the world and its dynamics do by the inevitable process of change. Don’t we remember the days in the 1950s when we used to hear Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai slogans? Politics of alliances and alignments has been changing globally and even in our own region. In inter-state relations, there are no eternal friends or enemies. There are only permanent interests. Interestingly, the China-India relations are a classical example of this proverbial aphorism. They have been on warring terms, mostly remaining in an adversarial mode with a long disputed border, and yet they also remain engaged, politically as well as economically. But the credit for this engagement between the two arch-rivals goes to China which uses economic policies as a principal instrument of its statecraft. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a discernible change in China’s foreign policy which based on the principle of peaceful co-existence has had a paradigm effect on modern international relations. Pragmatism has been the determining factor of this change which includes improvement of its relations with the US and other “advanced” countries as well as with its immediate neighbours including India. For China, India is a regional power of great geopolitical and economic importance that it cannot ignore. It handles sensitive issues concerning its neighbours with particular care in an “appropriate” manner that commensurate with its larger interests.
In improving its relations with its other neighbours, China makes sure that there is no adverse impact on its special relationship with Pakistan which both countries have built over the decades as an asset of their all-weather friendship. We should have no worries on China-India relations. Instead, we should be focused more on further strengthening our own multidimensional cooperation with China on the basis of mutual benefit. If China-India bilateral trade is growing rapidly; it is because both countries have commodities to sell to each other. Their trade both in value and volume is growing even faster than the target rate. From 66.5 billion US dollars in 2012, it is now scheduled to reach 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2015. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, we should be taking lessons from this model of burgeoning economic relationship instead of hopelessly remaining a ‘basket’ case. The potential of our trade with our partners including China remains totally unharnessed because the continuing energy crisis has seriously constricted our export capacity. Our industrial wheel is no longer running. Economic activity’s basic ingredients – consistent policies, stable law and order situation and supporting infrastructure including fuel and power that keeps the industrial wheel running– are all currently missing in our country. Let’s remedy the situation that keeps us from meeting our own targets in trade with China. Already, China is doing everything to help us. From Karakoram Highway to the newly completed Gwadar Port, a string of industrial plants, factories, electrical and mechanical complexes, power producing units, including hydro and nuclear power plants, stand testimony to China’s vital contribution to our country’s economic development. The new China-Pakistan plans involve a whole range of connectivity, construction and economic and technical cooperation.
The proposed ‘economic corridor’ linking Pakistan’s coastal areas with northwest China, on completion, will bring overarching economic and trade connectivity, bilaterally as well as regionally that would be of great benefit to landlocked Afghanistan. Given their geopolitical location and unparalleled mutuality of interest, both China and Pakistan represent a natural partnership to work together in converting Pak-Afghanistan border into an economic gateway for the region, and as a linkage of peace and cooperation with Central Asian countries.
Q: India is striving hard for permanent seat in the UNSC. What are India’s prospects and how it can affect resolution of Kashmir Issue through the UN?
India has never hidden its aspiration for a permanent seat in the Security Council. It has been using its demographic size, democratic system, and its growing economy with large market potential to advance its claim to the permanent membership. Together with Brazil, Germany and Japan, India now constitutes a group of four major contenders, formally known as G-4, seeking permanent membership of the Council and pursuing their own campaign for increase in both categories involving addition of four non-permanent and six permanent seats with veto power. It’s not a simple matter. The reform of Security Council is a complex issue and has been the subject of protracted discussions at the UN for over two decades now. While there is almost a consensus on increase in the non-permanent category, the overwhelming majority of UN member-states remains opposed to any expansion in the permanent category. With the exception of Africa, all regional groups are also divided because of deep differences between the main contenders and their regional rivals (Pakistan and China vis-à-vis India, Republic of Korea and China vis-à-vis Japan, Italy and Spain vis-à-vis Germany and Argentina and Mexico vis-à-vis Brazil).
With sharp differences among the member states, there is almost a deadlock situation on this issue. Despite increasing support for India’s claim, it is unlikely that the issue will be resolved in any foreseeable future. Pakistan has been spearheading the Uniting for Consensus (UfC) strategy with the help of major rivals of the G-4 contenders, namely, China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Mexico. Pakistan especially argues that population alone cannot be the criteria for permanent membership and that India is also in violation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions on Kashmir which pledged to the Kashmiri people their inalienable right of self-determination. The setting aside of UN resolutions is one thing, the discarding of the principle they embodied is quite another. The cardinal principle of self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter (Article 1.2) and also unequivocally reaffirmed in the Millennium Declaration in the case of peoples still under “foreign occupation” cannot be thrown overboard. India is in clear breach of the Charter as well as the Millennium Declaration. Its claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council is nothing but a mockery of the very principles and values that the UN is meant to uphold.
Q. India has heightened the tensions at borders by adhering to intense cross border fire during past few months. What, in your opinion, can be possible reasons for this escalation?
These violent eruptions along the Line of Control as well as on the Working Boundary are also part of a calculated pattern that India has followed since 9/11 to keep Pakistan under constant pressure at a time when the latter is fighting a war against terrorism on its own soil. As already stated, India has come to realise that the world today is fixated on terrorism and there could be no better opportunity to exploit this global concern in its favour. The recent intensity in its provocations along the Line of Control is also to be seen against the backdrop of the emerging US-imposed ‘peace’ in Afghanistan where India was expecting to find a role to the detriment of Pakistan’s political, economic and security interests. It is witnessing the situation unfolding against its expectations. No wonder, a reaction of anger and frustration finds manifestation in India-Pakistan tensions along the Line of Control. But the good thing is that both sides are not letting the situation go out of control.
Q: Where do you see this region particularly with reference to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India in next decade (2015 – 2025)?
With ongoing transition in Afghanistan, the region is fast approaching a period of profound change. But what kind of change do we expect at the end of this long war? Today, as we look at South Asia’s post-2015 political landscape, the horizon looks hazy and unclear if not murky. There are many imponderables on the very nature of the stipulated end-state. An ominous uncertainty looms large on the horizon in the post-2015 scenario. The spectre of a domestic political strife in Afghanistan is already causing serious concerns over the region’s future security landscape. Obviously, Washington has its own priorities as part of its larger Asian agenda in pursuit of its worldwide political and economic power. China is also concerned over the uncharted developments in its backyard. It has serious concerns over the persistent instability in the region with Islamic fundamentalism and radical influences seeping out of this region with ominous implications for its Western region. As a major power, China seems to be bracing itself for a balancing role in the strategically important regions across its Western borders. With surreptitious induction of its nuisance potential into the murky Afghan theatre, India is also pretending for a role in the region and in the process seeking to redefine India-Pakistan issues. This is a serious situation. Afghanistan is an area of fundamental strategic importance to Pakistan. The risk of a Pakistan-India proxy war in Afghanistan is fraught with perilous implications for regional and global peace, and must be averted at all cost.
If the Soviet presence in Cuba almost triggered a nuclear war in the early 1960s, India's continued ascendancy in Afghanistan will remain a danger of no less gravity to the already volatile security environment of this nuclearised region. Any conflictual ‘stalemate’ in Afghan theatre will not be without serious implications for peace and stability of the region.
Q: There is no second opinion about economic potential of Central Asia. Certainly, USA, China and Russia are main players in Central Asian resource politics. We also hear about New Great Game. How would you appreciate future role of these important players and suitable course of action for Pakistan?
After the World War II, Asia’s geo-political landscape has gone through a sea change in terms of its emerging political, economic and strategic problems and priorities. The collapse of the former Soviet Union not only left a truncated and weakened Russia but also reshaped Asia’s political map with the emergence of six new independent states in Central Asia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus. This is a vast region, immensely rich in natural resources with unmatched oil and gas reserves. No wonder, a power-led and oil & gas-driven Great Game is already on. Yes, Washington has its own priorities as part of its China-driven larger Asian agenda in pursuit of its worldwide political and economic power. America is no stranger to this region and had used this as battleground of a decisive war to dismantle the “evil” Soviet empire. The region remains important to its economic and strategic interests even in today’s changed environment. Meanwhile, in recent years, there has been a conspicuous development of closeness between China and Russia in reaction to what they perceive as growing US strategic outreach in their backyard. For Russia, it is its desire not only to check the US political and economic incursion into its backyard but also its anxiety to prevent further erosion of its political standing in its ‘near abroad.’ China also has vital strategic and economic stakes in this region and its energy resources.
Besides their common interest in curbing Washington’s influence in strategically important and resource-rich Central Asia, both China and Russia have also been concerned over the persistent instability in the region as a result of what they see as ‘forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism’ emanating from this region. In fact, the very rationale for their joining together in a regional grouping together with four other Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) called Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the 1990s was to forestall these very forces. Over time, this regional grouping also became important as a catalyst for the establishment of a new pan-Asian order in response to America’s Asian Pivot. In recent years, SCO has been developing into a major regional and global entity with a comprehensive agenda and a framework of cooperation in all areas of mutual interest to its members, including military, security, political, economic, trade and cultural fields. No wonder, even with its larger international canvas, SCO remains focused on regional security issues in general and Islamic extremism and radical influences in particular. According to some observers, in sharp contrast to the Russians view, China might be seeking to use the SCO only as a facilitator of regional trade and investment, something that would enable Beijing to play the leading role. Interestingly, two founding members of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Iran and Pakistan, are also associated with SCO as its observers. The regions covered by SCO and ECO are contiguous and mutually complementary in terms of their potential for regional cooperation.
There is a tremendous overlap between the two organisations in terms of their natural and human resources. Their combined untapped economic potential, if exploited properly through innovative national and regional strategies, could transform this part of Asia into an economic power house, besides making it a major factor of regional and global stability. It is in this context that Pakistan can play an important role in bringing SCO and ECO together. As Secretary-General of ECO (1992-96) which during my tenure was transformed from a trilateral entity (Iran, Pakistan and Turkey) into a 10-member regional cooperation organisation, I am familiar with ‘blueprints’ conceptualised in the early 1990s for an elaborate transport infrastructure linking the ECO member-states with each other and with the outside world and a network of oil and gas pipelines within the region and beyond. Those regional plans remained unimplemented only because of the ensuing war-led turmoil in Afghanistan. The multifaceted work that ECO has already accomplished over the last two decades in the form of various plans, strategies, agreements and projects could be of great complementary value to SCO in its regional plans of action. We could jointly capitalise on our geography and natural resources through development of transport and communication infrastructure, mutual trade and investment and common use of the region’s vast energy resources. Regional cooperation on security issues is the new global trend. We could also explore the possibilities of regional cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism and conflict-prevention. Peace in Afghanistan remains crucial for the success of both ECO and SCO. Together with China, we represent a natural partnership from within the region that can bring about the real change in this volatile region. Both are supportive of genuine peace in Afghanistan, free of foreign influence or domination.
Q: What measures are needed to overcome challenges of terrorism, extremism and sectarianism in Pakistan?
Terrorism is invariably the product of “a broader mix of problems caused by governance failures and leadership miscarriages. When there are no legitimate means of addressing the massive and systemic political, economic and social inequalities, an environment is created in which peaceful remedies often lose out against extreme and violent alternatives including terrorism.” We are confronted today with an extraordinary crisis situation with no parallel in our history. The gravity of this crisis warrants equally extraordinary responses. Our armed forces are already doing their job valiantly by rooting out foreign and local terrorists and eliminating their sanctuaries in areas bordering Afghanistan. But no military success is sustainable unless it is backed by the requisite civilian support in terms of immediate corrective as well as deterrent measures and long-term policies ranging from internal security, legal and economic measures to education and social welfare projects in the affected areas. The ultimate responsibility to deal with the twin-challenges of extremism and terrorism lies with the government which must ensure good governance and rule of law, guarantee non-discriminatory justice, promote tolerance and communal harmony, and reinforce popular resilience and mutual respect in the country.
Q: What potential do you foresee in future of Pak-US relationship?
This is an important relationship and a necessity for both sides because of common political, economic and geo-strategic interests. But over the decades, they have had a chequered history of frequent ups and downs in their relationship which has lacked continuity, a larger conceptual framework, and a shared vision beyond each side's "narrowly based and vaguely defined" issue-specific priorities. They need to remake this relationship as a normal, mutually beneficial bilateral relationship on the basis of universally-established norms of inter-state relations. The objective must be not to weaken this equation but to strengthen it by infusing in it greater mutually relevant political, economic and strategic content. It must no longer remain a “transactional” relationship and must go beyond the issue of terrorism.
Q: What qualities are essential for a successful diplomat? Your advice to the future diplomats of Pakistan?
In terms of personal qualities needed for a successful diplomat, the qualities of patience, modesty, intelligence, confidence, sociability, hospitality, charm and hard work are taken for granted. Among other requisites, one has to be perceptive and quick to grasp, balanced and cooperative with a good sense of right and wrong and control over emotion. He has to be a good communicator and an effective moderator who should also know the virtue of silence. Moral integrity, tact, prudence and discretion are the hall marks of a professional diplomat. Above all; he must be fully conversant with his own country’s affairs and also those of the country of his posting. A Pakistani diplomat’s challenge lies in how effectively he protects and projects his country’s national interests in the course of his diplomatic career. My advice to the future diplomats of Pakistan is that they should be looking forward to a profession which is both demanding and challenging given Pakistan’s geo-strategic location and foreign policy objectives. They must know that their Foreign Service career is a lifetime commitment which is personally fulfilling and professionally rewarding. It is a neat and clean profession which gives you plenty of opportunities to serve your country in the real sense.
Shamshad Ahmad Khan is a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan who also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to South Korea, Iran, as Secretary General of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and as Pakistan’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN. At professional level, he served in various posts at headquarters in Islamabad and in Pakistan Missions at Tehran, Dakar, Paris, Washington and New York. He contributes regularly to the media and has also authored two books ‘Dreams Unfulfilled’ (2009) and ‘Pakistan and World Affairs’ (2014).