Panel Discussion 01/01/2016
1) IPRI delegation comprising of following visited China from 19-26 October 2015 at the invitation of China’s Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR):-
• Mr. Muhammad Munir, Research Fellow-Delegation Leader
• Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Khan, Research Officer-Member
• Ms. Asiya Mahar, Assistant Research Officer-Member
• Ms. Aymen Ijaz-Assistant Research Officer-Member
2) The delegation was warmly received by the CICIR. The presentations/discussions at think tanks, universities and visits to cultural/historical places were well-coordinated with excellent protocol and administrative arrangements.
Meetings/Discussions Held with Chinese Think Tanks and Universities
a) CICIR-IPRI Workshop at CICIR, Beijing on 20th October 2015
1) Security Situation in Afghanistan and Pak-Afghan Relations by Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Khan
2) Positive Impact of Zarb-e Azb Operation by Pakistan Army by Ms. Aymen Ijaz
3) Pakistan’s Relations with the US and India by Mr. Muhammad Munir
4) China Pakistan Economic Corridor: Progress and Prospects by Ms. Asiya Mahar
Salient Points of Discussions
Security Situation in Afghanistan and Pak-Afghan Relations
• China wanted friendly relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. There was a possibility of joint role of Pakistan and China in Afghanistan’s national reconciliation talks.
• The death news of Mullah Umer was intended to divide Afghan Taliban but there was consensus within the Taliban for reconciliation process. Some elements within Afghanistan and some distant neighbouring countries were playing role to derail the reconciliation peace process between Afghan government and estranged ethnic groups including Taliban. Pakistan should continue its efforts for facilitating peace talks in Afghanistan.
Positive Impact of Zarb-e-Azb Operation by Pakistan Army
• Zarb-e-Azb was a breakthrough in Pakistan’s fight against terrorists without any discrimination.
• Pakistan should continue to deal with internal threats and to eliminate terrorism.
• Pakistan- Afghanistan cordial relations were very important in dealing with the threat of terrorism.
Pakistan’s Relations with the US
• Chinese generally believed that the US had tilted towards India. India has also good relations with Japan and other SAARC countries less Pakistan. Pakistan faced some problems in dealing with the US and EU countries due to some differences in their counter-terrorism strategies.
• The US knew that there could be no settlement in Afghanistan without Pakistan. There were structural problems in Pak-US relations in the post 9/11 period. The US had not recognized Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror and had always asked Pakistan to do more.
Pakistan’s Relations with India
• There were growing tensions in Pakistan-India relations since August 2014. The composite dialogue could not be resumed since the cancellation of Foreign Secretary level talks. Modi government had changed India’s policy towards Pakistan. It had an aggressive posture and was following a tough policy on various issues especially on Kashmir. On the pretext of cross border infiltration, India had continuously been involved in cross border heavy firing resulting in civilian causalities in Pakistan.
• Instead of resuming composite dialogue with Pakistan, Indian government was interested in discussing the issue of terrorism. There would be no concession on Kashmir under Modi’s government.
• India and Pakistan blame each other for supporting terrorism in their territories. Under Cold Start Doctrine, India might have attacked Pakistan in retaliation to any terrorist attack suspected to have originated from Pakistani soil. Peace talks between the two countries were important to avoid any conflict in the future.
• Due to its influence in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s economic constraints India considered it an opportunity to be tough with Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan must focus more on its economic development and if Pakistan was economically strong, India would think twice before attacking it.
• The recent developments within India had further deteriorated India-Pakistan relations such as local government’s imposition of ban on eating beef by the Muslims in India. People to people contact was also obstructed by Hindus. Tougher policy by Modi was a sensitive issue. Reasons for such a policy included Hindu nationalism and his RSS background despite India’s global economic outreach and India’s growing relations with the US and the West.
• Pakistan and India should keep their doors open for dialogue.
• India considers Pakistan as a transit route to Afghanistan, thus Pakistan should make some tactical adjustments. India’s inclusion in CPEC might be considered to pacify her aggressive posture towards Pakistan.
• It is important to increase people to people contact between Pakistan and India.
• Pakistan should build its strength in all fields especially in the economic field.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor: Progress and Prospects
• China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a mega project which holds enormous potential for transforming the lives of the people in the region. It will not only change the destiny of the whole region but also open a new vista of common development.
• The CPEC is the leading project of China’s ambitious vision for a modern reconstruction of the Silk Road. The development will offer a glimpse into how China plans to realize the Belt and Road Initiative, while success will boost confidence of countries and regions along the routes. For regional development, the network will ultimately expand to link other countries, stimulating an economic and trade boom in the region.
• China is a stabilizing factor in the region. It’s Land Silk Route and Maritime Silk Route initiatives are steps to strengthen the underdeveloped economies. In this regard, CPEC initiative is a step in the right direction.
b) Dinner hosted by Vice President of CICIR on October 20th, 2015
On October 20th, 2015, IPRI delegation attended formal dinner hosted by the CICIR’s Vice-President. The informal discussion covered issues such as Afghanistan situation, Pakistan-India relations, CPEC and China-US relations.
c) Visit to China Institute of Strategic Studies (CISS), Beijing on October 21st, 2015
• China wanted friendly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghanistan must change its approach towards Pakistan. The new Afghan government could open new window of hope. Pakistan should also adopt a new approach and focus more on Afghanistan issue. In fact, Pakistan’s conduct was good towards Afghanistan.
• Initially, China was investing in India but it could not succeed as the ruling party BJP is a religion oriented party, so Chinese companies were allergic to invest in India due to the issues of land acquisition and law and order problems. Modi’s ideas of smart cities and digital India had failed. Chinese entrepreneurs were cautious and India needed economic reforms. Chinese scholars were of the view that Modi was quite assertive in economic engagements and was trying to control the neighbourhood through its hegemony and strong influence.
• Chinese scholars asked about the progress of the CPEC related commercial and local development projects. They also asked as to how the CPEC would help the local people and improve the development in Balochistan?
• Chinese scholars said that both Pakistan and India’s safe and healthy economies were imperative for regional stability and security in the region.
• On the question of India’s concerns on CPEC and how to respond to India’s criticism to CPEC, the Chinese scholars said that China was a regional balancer but India saw it as a threat. Indian concerns related to CPEC were irrelevant. China would welcome India’s participation in the CPEC.
• China was concerned that more fractured Afghanistan could provide safe haven to the IS. The IS was a disaster for emerging terrorist groups as the IS was capable in mobilizing international forces, resources and funding.
• On the question of India becoming a permanent member of the UNSC. Chinese scholars said that the reforms process is quite complicated as UN reforms should be balanced and not for a particular country. Therefore, the UNSC must take interests of all stakeholders in consideration. It was very difficult to bargain among 200 countries recently. There were obstacles for expansion. The UNSC was rather more efficient with these limited seats.
• Chinese scholars said that Indo-China relations were based on challenges and opportunities. India had two track policy, i.e. one was of economic engagement but security-wise it was allergic. India had built military infrastructure along Indo-China border. In last two years, India had given mixed signals to China.
• China’s foreign policy was to facilitate dialogue process between Pakistan and India. It encouraged Iran and Afghanistan to do the same. China wanted a harmonized neighbourhood. But the legacy of past, psychological factors, geo-political competition, and public opinion were important factors in the normalization of relations between Pakistan and India.
d) Visit to Centre for South Asian Studies, Peking University (PKU), Beijing, on October 21st, 2015
• India was trying to isolate Pakistan by enhancing its co-operation with smaller South Asian countries. The US was also helping India in its economic development.
• Pakistan was facing internal and external threats such as TTP and instability in Afghanistan.
• Pakistan and China should co-operate to fight against religious extremism especially China would like to learn from Pakistan about its de-radicalization centers and rehabilitation techniques.
• The basic principle of CPEC is of inclusive approach. The CPEC is a pilot project which aims to benefit all the regional states including India.
• The forthcoming conference “Heart of Asia” being held in December 2015 at Islamabad would provide opportunities for normalizing India-Pakistan relations and for discussing the Afghanistan issue.
e) Visit to Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS), Shanghai, October 23rd ,2015
• On Pakistan-India relations and the peace process, the Chinese scholars said that not being a South Asian country, it was difficult for China to deeply engage in South Asian policies although the role of China was important in South Asia. The Chinese leadership was trying to focus and implement strategies for peace and security in South Asia and North East Asia. Security was the major factor to be considered in building of CPEC. BCIM did not contain any military strategy but India perceived China’s strategy in that perspective. Peace process was an important component of South Asian affairs. If there was no peace there would be no progress in South Asia.
• On Afghanistan issue, China wants that talks on Afghan reconciliation should continue and China and Pakistan should try to facilitate the process.
• On CPEC, India has apprehensions that China wants to get an access to Indian Ocean and that China wants to contain India’s military strategy. India and China have normal inter-state relations.
• India’s domestic policy and the internal politics under Modi have tarnished Modi’s reputation at International level and even within India. The fundamental mindset and extremist policies are against his agenda of economic reforms.
• US-Asia Pacific strategy is debatable. US has two track policy in South China Sea, i.e. to limit China’s influence and to have a policy of engagement with the South China Sea countries. The US has also developed strategic ties with India. But India being a vast developing nation and having an independent policy would be careful in becoming part of the US policy on China’s containment.
• On the question of rise of China and US skepticism, the Chinese scholars said that China wanted talks and good relations with the US and did not want frictions with the US. China wanted peaceful co-existence with the US but the US was not convinced. The US apprehends that the rise of China was threatening the US which was not correct.
• Chinese scholars said that the SCO had a significant role in global politics. China and Russia were looking forward to the reconciliation process for Afghanistan’s stability. The SCO was an appropriate forum to talk. Pakistan-India SCO membership would provide them an additional forum for talks to resolve their bilateral issues. Both countries should help in reconciliation process in Afghanistan. There were suggestions to make Afghanistan a member of the SCO.
• China’s silk route could expand and more states such as Russia and Central Asian Republics could be included if Afghanistan issue gets resolved. China welcomed Russia’s co-operation for the CPEC. The establishment of peace in Afghanistan was in the common interest of all Muslim countries.
• China does not have much leverage in Afghanistan, still it would play a pro-active role in the peace process. Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered a lot in the global war on terrorism. Pakistan has a very significant geo-political location. Pakistan must help in the settlement of Afghanistan issue with the help of China and other major powers and regional countries.
• Regarding the talks with Taliban, China wanted that peace process should not be disrupted. The tri-lateral institutional mechanism should be functional. The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan should work together for peace in Afghanistan.
f) Visit to Pakistan Study Centre, Fudan University (FDU), Shanghai on October 23rd,2015
• Chinese scholars said that an institutional/organizational strategy was important to tackle terrorist threat in the region. Pakistan and China should share de-radicalization ideas and strategies. Both states could work on establishment of rehabilitation and deradicalization centres.
• In response to the question by the Chinese scholars, the IPRI scholars stated that Balochistan security situation had improved. Many dissidents had surrendered. The Aghaz-e-Haqooq e Balochistan Package and NFC award were introduced by the Pakistani government for resolving issues of the people and had opened new job opportunities. CPEC was a good project for socio-economic uplift of the province, to boost the development of Baluchistan and for the creation of job and business opportunities for the people of the province.
g) Visits to the Historical and Cultural Places
During stay in China, IPRI delegation’s visits were arranged to following historical and cultural places.
• Visit to Summer Place on October 19th, 2015.
• Cruise Ride at Huangpu River on October 22nd,2015
• Sightseeing in Shanghai on October 24th,2015
• Visit to Madame Tussuads Wax Figure Gallery (the best one in China) on October 24th,2015
• Visit to Shanghai World Financial Center (492 meters, 5th tallest building and the highest viewing platform in the world) on October 24th,2015
• Drive to the Great Wall on October 26th,2015
IPRI’s Perspective shared with the Chinese think tanks and Universities
The main points highlighted by the members of the IPRI delegation during discussions with various Chinese think tanks and universities are reflected below:-
Security Situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan Afghanistan Relations
• Pakistan wanted peaceful and stable Afghanistan. To achieve peace and stability, Afghanistan needed a strong national army so Pakistan had offered to train Afghan cadets in Pakistan’s military academy. But if the instability in Afghanistan continued, many soldiers might defect due to loyalty ties with their respective particular ethnic groups. As a consequence, heavy weapons could be in the hands of warlords which would further destabilize the region. Chinese agreed with this assessment.
• On the question of India’s concerns about Pakistan-Afghanistan talks, IPRI scholars said that the return of normalcy and peace in Afghanistan indirectly contributed towards peace in Pakistan which was against India’s interests. Indeed, India felt being left-out when there was a greater co-operation between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the time of President Ghani. After he had taken over, peace talks with Taliban started and the talks in Murree made headway with a promise for the second round of talks. Following these developments, India mobilized its politics and used its influence on the Afghan government to derail Afghan-Taliban peace talks, which were being facilitated by Pakistan.
• The Chinese asked how peace talks with the Taliban would progress under the new leadership? The IPRI scholars responded that under their new leadership the Taliban could split into five or six groups and peace talks would become even more difficult. Mullah Mansoor, the new appointed leader of the Taliban was interested in peace talks, but his rise to the leadership role was being questioned by some in the Taliban camp.
• The Chinese scholars asked how the prevailing situation in Afghanistan posed a great danger and security threats not only to the government of Afghanistan but the region as a whole. IPRI scholars replied that instability in Afghanistan would have direct implications for Pakistan. That is why peace in Afghanistan was Pakistan’s first priority and it encouraged and supported reconciliation process in Afghanistan. If there was peace in Afghanistan there would be peace in Pakistan in particular and the region in general.
• IPRI scholars added that Pakistan’s future security prospects were closely linked to the security situation in Afghanistan. There are some spoilers like previous regime of Karzai and his legacy in NDS, status-quo elements and might be some factions among Taliban, in Afghanistan, who did not want peace in Afghanistan. It was important to understand that peace in Afghanistan was an imperative, and not an option. Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan was based on two principles: a) restraint, and b) responsibility. The former meant no interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and latter showed that Pakistan could play a vital role in reconciliation process by offering itself as a facilitator. In short, Pakistan wanted stable and independent Afghanistan which was an important factor for the security of both countries and the region.
• On India’s role in Afghanistan, IPRI scholars told Chinese that India was benefiting from its politico-economic and military influence in Afghanistan to sponsor terrorist acts in Pakistan. Being a distant neighbor to Afghanistan, India’s main interest there was to use Afghan soil for destabilizing Pakistan.
Positive Impact of Zarb-e-Azb Operation by Pakistan Army
• IPRI scholars briefed Chinese about Operation Zarb-e-Azb, its background, developments and implications Chinese were told that operation was very successful in the North Waziristan and Khyber Agency, including Tirah Valley and the operation had entered its final phase in the Shawal valley.
• Regarding the situation of IDPs, the IPRI scholars told Chinese that about two million IDPs comprising 70% women and children were now in the process of phased return to their homes. The return had four phases which was started in March 2015 and would last till November 2016. The government of Pakistan had also taken measures for reestablishment of law and order, reconstruction of infrastructure, restoration of the economic activity in the area. The government had also introduced FATA Sustainable Return and Rehabilitation Strategy including FATA reform packages, FATA housing programme and FATA youth packages.
• The IPRI scholars also told the Chinese scholars that the success of Zarb-e-Azb and Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP) to eliminate terrorism were being praised worldwide and at national level. The US, Beijing and the international community were praising the successes achieved in the operation Zarb-e-Azb. China’s Foreign Ministry and Central Military Commission were appreciating Pakistan’s sacrifices and positive contributions in the fight against international terrorism. In July 2015, the US Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, lauded the Pakistan government’s determined measures, especially the Zarb-e-Azb military operation, to stamp out extremism from the country. In 2014, the Pentagon had declared that it had “seen some success” as a result of the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan.
Pakistan’s Relations with the US and India
• On a question about Pakistan relations with the US, the IPRI scholar said that Pakistan’s relations with the United States were always based on a compatibility of interests, although, there was a difference in the way the two countries looked at the relationship. The US looked at the relationship from the global perspective and Pakistan viewed it from the regional perspective. Pakistan’s relations with the US had considerably improved in the post-US withdrawal scenario.
• The Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the US (22-23 October 2015) was focused on issues such as reconciliation in Afghanistan, building cooperation in counter terrorism and Pakistan-India relations. IPRI scholars stated that India had called off Foreign Secretary level talks with Pakistan in August 2014 on the pretext of Pakistan High Commissioner’s normal meeting with Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi. The cancellation of talks by India was the first serious setback to the efforts by our leadership to normalize relations with India. During the last one year of BJP’s government, the LoC remained not only tense but also witnessed repeated violations by the Indian side coupled with hostile statements by Indian politicians against Pakistan. Pakistan was committed to a result-oriented, sustainable and meaningful dialogue with India to address all issues of mutual concern including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. But India’s trend of focusing on issues of its choice and ignoring the core issue of Kashmir was a flawed strategy.
• IPRI scholars highlighted the Indian opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and said that India’s opposition to CPEC reflected Indian mindset and its biased attitude towards Pakistan.
• IPRI scholars stated that it was difficult to predict relations between Pakistan and India. There had been a lot of ups and down in the history of their relations. If the relations remain tense, it would also adversely impact the regional peace. Therefore, both countries should try to resolve their issues through a meaningful result oriented dialogue. The upcoming SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2016 was a hope for the improvement of relations between the two countries.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Progress and Prospects
• The institutes and universities visited by IPRI delegation were keen to know about the progress on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. IPRI scholars stated that the aim of CPEC was to establish economic zones and advance development in the region. It would not only pass through the developed areas of Pakistan but also through underdeveloped areas as well. This would greatly benefit Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan was determined that this project should be completed on time.
• Chinese side was informed that, on September 14, Pakistan signed 43-year lease for Gwadar port land with China, for developing the first special economic zone (SEZ) in the deep sea port of Gwadar. In September 2015, PM Nawaz Sharif inaugurated Pakistan-China Friendship Tunnels and Atta Abad Bridge. The project consisted of five tunnels with a total length of 7km, two bridges and 78 culverts. China had constructed the $275-million 24-km portion of Karakorum Highway (KKH) on Atta Abad Lake in Gilgit Baltistan’s Hunza valley. PIA had introduced third weekly flight from Islamabad to Beijing. According to ISPR, till July 2015, 502km out of 870km length of roads were already constructed. At BRICS/SCO July 2015 summit in Ufa Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned that Pakistan-China Economic Corridor had entered the stage of implementation. Reassuring commitment from Pakistani side, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said that the Peshawar-Karachi motorway would be completed by 2017, energy projects under CPEC would be fast-tracked and Gwadar International Airport would be completed in the shortest possible time. In this context, a Special Security division had been set up for the security of Chinese personnel working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The visit of IPRI’s delegation to China was successful and productive. The IPRI scholars gave comprehensive and detailed presentations on situation in Afghanistan, Zarb-e-Azb, CPEC and Pakistan’s relations with the US and India. The visit helped in exchanging ideas, views, and learning about each other. IPRI delegation also got opportunity to raise questions and to know about Chinese perspectives on various issues.