UNITED NATIONS: Raking up Kashmir, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today said the non-resolution of the issue reflected failure of the UN and proposed a 4-point "peace initiative" which includes demilitarisation of Kashmir and unconditional withdrawal of forces from Siachen.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, he also proposed restraint by both countries from "use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances" and formalisation of the 2003 border ceasefire as part of the formula to ensure peaceful ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
"Cooperation, not confrontation, should define our relationship," Sharif said while underlining the "primacy and urgency" of addressing the issues of Kashmir and peace and security between India and Pakistan. At the same time, he insisted that "consultations with Kashmiris, who are an integral part of the dispute, are essential to evolving a peaceful solution." Contending that normalisation of relations with India has been his priority since he came to office, the Pakistan Prime Minister said the two countries "should address and resolve the causes of tension" and take all possible measures to avert further escalation.
"That is why I want to use the opportunity today to propose a new peace initiative with India, starting with measures that are the simplest to implement:
"One, we propose that Pakistan and India formalize and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir. For this purpose, we call for UNMOGIP’s expansion to monitor the observance of the ceasefire.
"Two, we propose, that Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances. This is a central element of the UN Charter.
"Three, steps be taken to demilitarize Kashmir.
"Four, agree to an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battleground," he said.
While proposing the 4-point formula, Sharif said, "an easing of threat perceptions through such peace efforts will make it possible for Pakistan and India to agree on a broad range of measures to address the perilposed by offensive and advanced weapons systems."
In his address to the 193-member UN General Assembly, the Pakistan Prime Minister said, "Our peoples need peace to prosper. Peace can be achieved through dialogue, not disengagement."
Referring to Kashmir, he said since 1947, the dispute has remained unresolved and UN Security Council resolutions have remained unimplemented.
"Three generations of Kashmiris have only seen broken promises and brutal oppression. Over 100,000 have died in their struggle for self-determination. This is the most persistent failure of the United Nations," he said.
Sharif said that when the Composite Dialogue was launched with India in 1997, the two countries had "agreed that this would encompass two principal items: Kashmir and Peace and Security, along with six other issues, including terrorism." He said, "The primacy and urgency of addressing these two issues (Kashmir and Peace and Security) is even more compelling today."
Sharif said when he assumed office of the Prime Minister in June 2013 for the third time, one of his first priorities was to normalize relations with India
"I reached out to the Indian leadership to emphasize that our common enemy was poverty and underdevelopment... Yet today ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary are intensifying, causing civilian deaths including women and children," he said.
"Wisdom dictates that our immediate neighbor refrains from fomenting instability in Pakistan," the Prime Minister said.
Sharif also brought in Kashmir while talking about "suffering of Muslims across the world: Palestinians and Kashmiris oppressed by foreign occupation; persecuted minorities; and the discrimination against Muslim refugees fleeing persecution or war."
He said the international community must redress "these injustices against the Muslim people". Talking about South Asia, the Pakistani Prime Minister said its history is one of missed opportunities and "among its dire consequences is the persistence of poverty and deprivation in our region."
He said development was his government's first priority and has underpinned his policy to build a peaceful neighbourhood.
"South Asia needs strategic stability and this requires serious dialogue to achieve nuclear restraint, conventional balance and conflict resolution," Sharif said.
"Pakistan neither wants to, nor is it engaged in, an arms race in South Asia. We cannot, however, remain oblivious to the evolving security dynamics and arms buildup in our region, which obliges us to take essential steps to maintain our security," he added.
At the same time, he said, "As a responsible nuclear weapon state, Pakistan will continue to support the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. We have maintained the highest standards of nuclear security and have established an effective regime to ensure the safety and security of our nuclear facilities and stocks."
He said Pakistan looks forward to playing its part to build a brighter era of peace and prosperity in South Asia. "We owe it to our people and to succeeding generations."
Talking about terrorism, Sharif said Pakistan is its "primary victim" and that his government will fight the menace in "all its forms and manifestations" irrespective of who their sponsors are.
"We have lost thousands of lives including civilians and soldiers to terrorist violence.. The blood that has been shed, including that of innocent children, has reinforced our resolve to eliminate this scourge from our society," the Pakistan Prime Minister said.
To justify his point on fighting terrorism, he referred to 'Zarb-e-Azb', Pakistan's largest anti-terrorism campaign against terrorists involving over 180,000 security forces. It has made substantial progress in "cleansing our country of all terrorists and will conclude only when his objective has been accomplished", he asserted.
He added that the operation is complemented by an all-inclusive National Action Plan that encompasses police and security actions, political and legal measures and social and economic policy packages, aimed at countering violent extremism.
At the same time, he said, "The global threat of terrorism cannot be defeated unless we address its underlying causes. Poverty and ignorance are part of the problem. Extremist ideologies must be opposed," he said. The narrative of the terrorists also has to be countered through the "just resolution of the several instances of oppression and injustice against Muslims in various parts of the world," Sharif said.
"Unfortunately, some seek to use the global campaign against terrorism to suppress the legitimate right of occupied peoples to self-determination," he said.
Sharif was all praise for China in his address, particularly appreciating the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is being objected to by India as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. "We welcome China's vision of 'One Belt, One Road'. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, announced during President Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan earlier this year will spur regional economic integration and bring prosperity to the entire region and beyond," he said.
He described it as "an inspiring model" of South-South cooperation that should be emulated. He also welcome Russia's greater focus on Asian cooperation and said the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which Pakistan will be joining this year as a full member, holds great promise for promoting regional connectivity.
Turning to Afghanistan, Sharif said Pakistan's relations with it underwent a "positive transformation" after the advent of the National Unity Government in Kabul.
"In response to the request from the Afghan Government and with the support of the international community, Pakistan made strenuous efforts to facilitate the process of Afghan reconciliation.
Dialogue did open between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, which was an unprecedented first. "But it was unfortunate that certain developments stalled the process. Thereafter, militant attacks intensified, which we unequivocally condemn," the Pakistan Prime Minister said.
He said Pakistan will persist in the endeavor to help resume the dialogue process and promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. "We can, however, do so only if we receive the required cooperation from the Afghan government. Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan are in neither country’s interests," he said.
He said Pakistan is encouraged that the international community, including the major powers, desire continuation of the peace process in Afghanistan. Sharif also advocated the need for comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council to reflect the interests of all the member states with a caution that it should not just be an "expanded club of the powerful and privileged".