Statement by Ambassador Syrus Sajjad Qazi at Economic and Social Research Center  (ESAM) on “Peace and Stability in South Asia” 13 March 2019

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Thank you very much for your invitation as well as the presence of all honourable guests here today. 

I would like to thank His Excellency, Mr. Recai Kutan, President of ESAM, for organizing this talk on “Peace and Stability in South Asia.”

This event is both timely and relevant in the backdrop of the recent developments in the region. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

In my talk, I will approach the issue of peace and stability in South Asia in three parts. 

Firstly, I will contextualize the current tensions in South Asia, arguing that the flare-up was neither unexpected nor something that is not likely to repeat itself.  

Next, while assessing the impact of the recent events over peace and stability in South Asia, I will share my perspectives on the dynamics governing these events. 

Finally, I will highlight Prime Minister of Pakistan’s vision for lasting peace and stability in South Asia, and conclude by arguing that this crisis has opened up the door for rapprochement and understanding – provided there is will and desire to actually face the ground realities. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Today, nearly 1.5 billion people of South Asia are yet again living under the shadows of a possible conflict in South Asia. 

However, for anyone familiar with the history of post-colonial Sub-continent as well as the recent political developments within India, this should not come as a surprise. 

The region has repeatedly walked to the brink of war and has crossed this brink several times owing to the unsettled Jammu & Kashmir dispute. 

This dispute is a living reality, and so are the Indian occupation of Jammu & Kashmir and the denial of the right to self-determination to the Kashmiris.   

Without a just settlement of the this dispute, based on the UN Security Council resolutions and the will of the Kashmiris, peace in South Asia is unconceivable. 

The recent years have demonstrated beyond doubt that the more India has tried to bury these truths with force and the smoke-screen of alleged terrorism, the more they are reverberating within Jammu & Kashmir as well as across the globe. 

The global consensus on resolving this dispute and calls for ending repression against Kashmiris under Indian occupation is reaching a crescendo - as demonstrated by the reports of the UN, OIC, as well as other human rights organizations. 

Peace in South Asia needs the courage and honesty to address the fundamentals of the conflicts in the region.  

Unless some countries in our region choose to face this reality squarely, the region will continue stumbling from one crisis to another, on the brink of disaster – something two nuclear-armed neighbours cannot conceive of.  

Ladies and gentlemen, 

This brings me to the next part of my talk – i.e. the recent events and dynamics governing these events. 

It is important to understand that the genesis of the latest escalation between India and Pakistan are not only rooted in the decades old unresolved dispute on Jammu & Kashmir, as well as the upsurge in Indian repression against Kashmiris demanding self-determination, but also in the outlook and politics of the present Indian government. The looming election, only weeks away, is an additional factor. 

This electoral campaign is infact culmination of a well-orchestrated strategy of intimidation and suppression of Muslims in general and Kashmiris in particular in India. 

From lynching of Muslims on the mere suspicion of slaughtering cows, to slaughtering of Kashmiris for demanding self-determination, this strategy aims to capitalize on jingoism, xenophobia and war hysteria as a means not only to electoral victory but also to intimidate the Muslims at large. 

Not long ago the architects of this campaign razed to the ground the historic Babri Mosque in India – now they are out to demolish the will of those who once prayed in it.

 In the wake of the Pulwama incident, there have been numerous incidents of targeting of Kashmiris as well as Muslims in India. 

Kashmiri leaders remain behind bars. India also recently banned Jammat-e-Islami on baseless changes. 

Muslims in India continue to live under the shadow of fear and intimidation. 

These concerns were amply highlighted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights during the 40thsession of the UN Human Rights Council recently held in Geneva. 

An election won on the mandate of hatred, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Pakistan rhetoric will result in the formation of a government, held together by the bricks and mortar of these negative forces.  

This edifice of hatred does not bode well for the future of South Asia.  

Ladies and gentlemen, 

The Pulwama attack on 14 February 2019 had indigenous origins, including the use of local explosives and vehicle. 

The attack was carried out by a Kashmiri from Indian Occupied Kashmir, Adil Ahmad Dar, who lived only a few kilometers away from the place of incident.

Without sharing any shred of evidence, India initiated a campaign of allegations against Pakistan, using bellicose rhetoric and threats of war. 

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, reiterated Pakistan’s desire for peace in the region, and offered cooperation in any investigation, based on actionable evidence from India. 

However, instead of sharing evidence or reciprocating the call of the Prime Minister of Pakistan for dialogue and cooperation for regional peace and security, on 26 February 2019, India committed blatant violation the UN Charter and international law, through unlawful use of force against the territory of Pakistan.

This action was designed only for appealing to the domestic electorate before the upcoming elections, and to divert attention from the ever-stronger Kashmiri struggle for self-determination. 

However, this senseless and highly irresponsible action dragged the entire region virtually to the brink of war. 

Pakistan had no option but to act in self-defence, which we did – with restraint and in line with the international law. 

When India violated the sovereignty of Pakistan once again, Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft, capturing one Indian pilot. 

Despite the escalation and belligerence from India, the Prime Minister of Pakistan once again followed the path of peace.

He announced the return of the captured Indian pilot as a gesture of peace. 

This step was welcomed and appreciated by the entire international community, with the sole exception of the Indian Government.

India continues to use a belligerent tone, aimed at whipping up war frenzy domestically for electoral gains. 

It is not hard to see whose interest in Delhi lies in escalating the crisis. 

Certainly, not that of the people of South Asia. 

Ladies and gentleman, 

In August 2018, the people of Pakistan elected a new democratic government with an agenda for change – both domestically as well as within our region and beyond. 

Soon after its election, the new government expressed its desire for normalisation of relations with India. Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his intention to take “two steps” towards peace for very “single step” taken by India. 

The recent crisis has proven that the Prime Minister of Pakistan has and is willing to translate his words into meaningful steps for peace. 

His leadership throughout the crisis has demonstrated his desire to take courageous political decisions for the future of one fifth of humanity that lives in South Asia. 

The region needs leadership – not parochial jingoism.   

Ladies and gentlemen, 

What will essentially determine the future of peace and stability in South Asia is the political will of our neighbour to actually rise above narrow electoral politics to respond to the vision for peace put forth by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.  

Instead of externalizing the problem, India needs the courage to look-inwards, towards the systematic repression, institutionalized oppression, and denial of right to self-determination to the Kashmiris. 

There can be no lasting peace in South Asia without a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute based on the UN Security Council resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people. 

And there is no pathway to reach this end, without dialogue. 

It is time India face this reality. 

Thank you.