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Pakistan Should Avoid Joining Any ‘Bloc,’ Advises Imran Khan

by Newsweek Pakistan

Photo courtesy PID

Addressing Islamabad Conclave 2021, prime minister fears ‘cold war’ brewing between China and the U.S. and claims no talks possible with BJP-led India

Pakistan must try to stop the formation of regional blocs over the ongoing rift between the U.S. and China, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday, warning that the situation was rapidly moving toward a “new Cold War.”

“We should not become a part of any bloc,” he said during an address at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad’s Conclave 2021. Pakistan, he said, should try to resolve disputes between rival states by acting as a bridge, adding that similar initiatives had proven effective in the past during mediations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi echoed the prime minister’s concerns, warning that there was “accelerated competition” between global superpowers that was set to lead to confrontations. “This can lead to new rivalries and push the world again into bloc politics,” he said.

Islamabad, he maintained, was committed to “peaceful coexistence, cooperative multilateralism and consensus-driven outcomes.” On Thursday, Pakistan declined an invitation from the U.S. to attend a Summit for Democracy organized by the U.S. In a statement, the Foreign Office said the two states were continuing bilateral dialogue but did not divulge the reasons for the decision. According to observers, the decision was motivated by the U.S. inviting Taiwan to the summit, rebutting the “One China” policy.

During his speech, the prime minister also discussed the looming humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and urged the international community to provide aid to avoid this. Pakistan was committed to every effort that would alleviate the suffering of Afghans, he said, adding that the humanitarian concerns were already provoking a refugee surge in neighboring Iran. He said that peace in Afghanistan was not only vital for the future of Pakistan, but also for Central Asian states that wanted to boost regional trade and connectivity.

Kashmir dispute

Khan claimed that the Kashmir dispute could only be resolved through dialogue and regretted that this was not possible so long as the incumbent Narendra Modi-led government remained in power over India. Maintaining that the Kashmir dispute as the “biggest problem” holding the region back, he hoped that India would one day have a “rational” government with which resolution of disputes could be sought through logical and sane discussions.

Prior to Modi’s re-election in 2019, Khan had told a journalist that he believed the settlement in Kashmir was likelier if the BJP won the polls.

In his address, the prime minister said that once the neighboring nations resolved the core dispute of Kashmir, they could cooperate on various mutual threats, including climate change. He regretted that his government’s peace overtures to India had thus far been seen in Delhi as a “sign of weakness.”

Khan stressed that people who believed disputes could be resolved through conflict were mistaken. “They are either unaware of history or they are too proud of their weapons,” he claimed.

The prime minister concluded his speech by discussing the establishment of the Rehmatullil Alameen Authority, reiterating that it was aimed at gathering religious scholars from across the world to build a “true narrative” and image of Islam.

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