Pakistan Army chief says Islamabad has sought to expand relations with both China and the U.S. without entering into camp politics
Russia’s aggression against a smaller country like Ukraine cannot be condoned, Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Saturday, as he described the ongoing Russian invasion as a great tragedy that must be “stopped immediately.”
Addressing the second and final day of the Islamabad Security Dialogue, the Army chief said Pakistan was greatly concerned over the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, noting that Moscow’s “legitimate” security concerns did not permit its invasion. “Pakistan has consistently called for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. We support immediate dialogue between all sides to find a lasting solution to the conflict,” he added.
Lamenting that the conflict had already resulted in thousands of people being killed and millions made refugees, he said that it had also lent hope to smaller nations, as they saw how Ukraine defended its territory against aggression of a larger power with smaller, more agile forces. Stressing that Pakistan had enjoyed “excellent” ties with Ukraine since its independence, he said that Islamabad had sent humanitarian assistance to Ukraine via Pakistan Air Force planes and would continue to do. Russia’s ties with Pakistan, he said, had also thawed due to some recent “positive” developments.
Cautioning that the continuation of the conflict did not serve anyone, especially developing countries that would face the full impact of its socioeconomic costs, he stressed that the situation could easily spiral out of control. He predicted that the future of global security would be determined by the resolution of the conflict, noting that there was a camp that advocated contestation, and another that advocated cooperation. “I believe the world today is built by those who believe in cooperation, respect and equality, instead of division, war-mongering and dominance,” he added.
Coming to Pakistan’s ties with the U.S., the Chief of Army Staff said that Islamabad did not believe in any camp politics and its bilateral relations were not dependent on its ties with other countries. Noting that Pakistan enjoyed a close strategic relationship with China, as demonstrated by the country’s commitment to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said, Islamabad “equally” shared a “long and excellent strategic relationship with the U.S., which remains our largest export market.”
Stressing that Pakistan wanted to broaden its ties with China and the U.S. without hindering its relations with either, he said that maintaining positive relations with other global powers, including the European Union, the U.K., Gulf countries, Southeast Asia and Japan were also important for Pakistan’s progress.
Ties with India
During his speech, Gen. Bajwa referred to India’s “accidental” firing of an unarmed missile into Pakistan last month as a matter of “serious concern,” adding that Pakistan expected Delhi to provide evidence to it and the global community to prove its weapons were safe and secure. “Unlike other incidents involving strategic weapons systems, this is the first time in history that a supersonic cruise missile from one nuclear-armed nation has landed in another,” he said, noting it had raised “serious concerns” about India’s ability to manage and operate high-end weapons systems. It was equally concerning, he said that India had failed to inform Pakistan immediately about the inadvertent launch.
“We hope the international community will realize that this incident could have resulted in a loss of life in Pakistan or an accidental shooting down of a passenger plane flying along the path of the cruise missile,” he added.
Gen. Bajwa said Pakistan continued to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues, including the Kashmir dispute, and was willing to move forward on this if India did the same. Similarly, he said, Pakistan desired the Sino-India border issues to be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue as well. “I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptional biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” he said.
Stressing that regional peace and stability was essential for prosperity and development, the Army chief said Pakistan’s doors were open for all its neighbors. Referring to Afghanistan, he said Islamabad was working with the international community to establish peace and stability in the war-torn state, but sanctions and lack of financial flows were resulting in a humanitarian crisis. In its zeal to resolve the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine, he warned, the world—especially the West—must not forget the 40 million Afghans who continued to live in perilous conditions.
Stressing that an inability to address the issues could provoke a new refugee crisis as well as once again making Afghanistan an epicenter of terrorism, he warned that this could result in “more than one 9/11.” He urged the international community to support the Afghan government. “The performance of present Afghan government is not satisfactory, to say the least, but we have to be patient and accommodative,” he said, adding that instead of imposing sanctions, the global community should incentivize positive behavioral changes.
“While Pakistan shares some of the concerns of the international community, we believe disengagement with Afghanistan is not an option,” he added.