SOUTH ASIA WEEK: Pakistan's Role in Regional Stability

Apr. 25, 2016

As part of the India and South Asia Program’s annual speaker series, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the United Nations discussed her country’s regional agenda.

Pakistan’s Domestic Priorities

Pakistan has transitioned from a crisis economy to a stable economy, the Ambassador said. Achieving stable, sustainable economic growth while mitigating social inequality was the priority of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government, Lodhi noted.

“Almost 66% of our population is under the age of 30. We have the challenge of finding skills, education and jobs for the young. This can be a factor for instability should these challenges not be addressed. We know that a politically and economically stable country is better able to “defeat (..) militancy and terrorists as well as create conditions that make it inhospitable for violent extremism to flourish,” she noted listing the defeat of extremist elements as a top priority for her government.

Increased regional stability could have a stabilizing effect for ongoing domestic efforts; hence Pakistan had committed itself to supporting the reconciliation effort in Afghanistan, and was working toward normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. Pakistan remained committed to nuclear non-proliferation. It also accorded high priority to building regional cooperation.

“Increased regional economic cooperation and connectivity could further contribute to the wider region’s stability,” she said.

Prime examples of advances in this arena included the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (part of China’s Silk Road ‘One Belt, One Road’ vision), to connect this entire continent to the Middle East and serve as a land bridge to Europe.

Pakistan’s Global Responsibility

With its nearly 200 million citizens and as the seventh most populous nation in the world Pakistan had a key role to play at the international level. As the world's second largest Muslim nation, Pakistan has a critical and influential voice in the Muslim world.

“Pakistan has been very active diplomatically since its inception. In the 50s and 60s Pakistan was a leading actor in the diplomacy accompanying the decolonization process at the United Nations and elsewhere,” she said.

Its commitment to multilateral diplomacy remained high: Pakistan has served seven times as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and had committed 140,000 Pakistani troops to 41 U.N. missions in 23 countries since the 1960s.

Pakistan and India: A Challenging Relationship

Ambassador Lodhi acknowledged the ongoing tensions between the two major players in the region. “It is disappointing from Islamabad’s perspective to see the government in Delhi not respond to any of the peace overtures that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made to India.” No formal dialogue between India and Pakistan currently exists: “Whatever the issues are between India and Pakistan, we need to be talking because a ‘no talks’ option is no option.” She was confident that the issues on partition that had never been settled were “ripe for resolution,” and noted that there was much to be gained by economic cooperation for regional growth and security.

Pakistan’s Role in Afghanistan 

“There is now a firm international consensus that this war has to end by a negotiated peace in Afghanistan as we have seen the limits of military action,” Ambassador Lodhi noted with respect to the conflict in Pakistan’s neighboring country. The reported death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar had stalled progress on talks that had just begun aimed at a negotiated peace.

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) composed of representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China had committed to undertake efforts to promote a peace process in Afghanistan. This structure could have a benign impact on the speed of renewed diplomatic efforts, she said. “We are looking at a prolonged military stalemate there. The Afghan national forces cannot hold on to the entire country any more than the Taliban can,” she said. “These are the conditions under which you have to bring the two parties together. Pakistan can only do so much. We cannot negotiate for Afghanistan.”

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For Academic Citation:SOUTH ASIA WEEK: Pakistan's Role in Regional Stability.” News, , April 25, 2016.