Changing South Asia Provides Opportunities To Pakistan

August 19, 2015 – Institute for Policy Reforms (IPR) Chairman Humayun Akhtar Khan has that the recent economic change in the region hold great promise, provided the challenges are overcome.

He said this at a stimulating panel discussion held by IPR on Tuesday in Islamabad. Prominent experts discussed the profound political and economic changes that are taking place in South and Central Asia and in the Middle East.

The discussion focused on the effect and implication of these developments on Pakistan. The panellists included former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar, United States Institute for Peace South Asia Director Moeed Yusuf, well-known anchor and analyst Ejaz Haider and Institute for Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) Chairman Khalid Mahmood.

Introducing the topic, Humayun Akhtar Khan said that recent developments held hope for stability and growth in the region, but the outcome depended on how the leaders shaped these developments.

He said that there was a risk that opportunities may turn into challenges, adding that China’s increased role built on the One Belt One Road programme and an active Shanghai Cooperation Organisation held promise for the region. “However, its success depended on partner countries.

Iran’s nuclear deal with P5+1 augured well for well-being of the greater Middle East. It can be a boost for Pakistan’s trade and energy interest also. Iran’s role in the Middle East, however, depended on relations with the GCC as well as with the USA. The Ashraf Ghani government showed good determination and maturity in trying to stabilise Afghanistan. Despite occasional acrimony, Pakistan and Afghanistan share common ground in moving forward,” he added.

The IPR chairman said that of late, India has had an active foreign policy, adding that India is expanding its defence capability and does not shy from display of force. Dwelling on developments in Afghanistan, Moeed Yusuf said that Pakistan and Afghanistan have no choice other than to move forward with talks for peace in Afghanistan. This was entirely in the interest of the two countries, as well as the region, he added.

He said failure of talks would destabilise Afghanistan with profound effect on Pakistan and the region. “The only likely outcome of failed talks would be a civil war in Afghanistan with ISIS to be its main beneficiary. Indeed, there are spoilers, but each party must know that the civil war will no longer be localised and would affect the whole region. ISIS presence would pose a far greater threat than that from al Qaeda,” he added.

Moeed Yusuf said that all countries must strengthen the Ashraf Ghani government, adding that this was the last chance for Pakistan and the West to have a credible partner in peace. He said the Taliban also have reconciled to power sharing in Kabul and moved from their objective of removal of the Ghani government, adding that a follow up meeting to the recent Murree talks is critical. “Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan must overcome hindrances and find ways to manage those opposed to the talks,” Moeed added.

Former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar focused on China. He said that above everything else, the Chinese prioritised the peaceful borders, adding that this was critical to China’s practical and businesslike approach of focusing on the economic development over territorial disputes. “Clearly, China will now play a growing role in South Asia and Pakistan will be a pivotal country. China’s One Road One Belt is a grand vision of the present leadership in Beijing. This initiative, in which Pakistan’s role was key, is of great strategic importance, he added.