* Spokesperson says US-India defence agreement can only add to conventional imbalance in region
By Sardar Sikander Shaheen
January 30, 2015
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ISLAMABAD: Continuing to share concern over India-US defence and nuclear cooperation, Pakistan on Thursday said that the defence agreement between the two sides could only “add to the conventional asymmetry and hence strategic instability in the region”.
It also said India’s massive acquisition of weapons ‘complicates’ regional stability. “India’s defence spending has increased by 12 percent in 2014-15 and stands at $38.35 billion. India has been the top buyer of arms for the last three years. In this backdrop, the US-India ten-year defence agreement can only add to the conventional asymmetry and hence strategic instability,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly press briefing.
Her comments referred to the recent headway made in India-US nuclear, defence and strategic cooperation following US President Barrack Obama’s visit to New Delhi. Separately, in a linked development, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs that Washington’s “growing tilt towards New Delhi could lead to instability and imbalance of power in the region”. The secretary furthered, “US is an all important stakeholder in this region and if South Asia’s peace and stability are challenged, the American interests would be at stake too. We alone would not be at the suffering end.”
In Thursday’s media briefing, the FO spokesperson said Pakistan has been proposing a three-pronged ‘Strategic Restraint Regime’ based on conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint and conventional balance. “Pakistan firmly believes that confidence-building and arms reduction in the regional and sub-regional context are of paramount importance,” she said.
On proposed reforms in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the steps being taken by Islamabad to ‘block’ New Delhi’s way from getting UNSC’s permanent membership, Aslam said Pakistan, as a part of the Uniting for Consensus (UFC) group, has always advocated an effective and feasible reform of the Security Council based on consensus among the UN membership. “A reformed Security Council should reflect interests of the wider UN membership. In our view, the idea of new permanent members creates new centres of power and privileges, and could make the UNSC even more undemocratic…India is in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir and the right of people of Kashmir to self-determination. How does a country with such record qualify to become a permanent member of UNSC?”
The spokesperson said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan, which was postponed last year, was “very much on the cards” but exact dates were not finalised as yet. The FO diplomat termed China a ‘global power’. “China is a global power and it is a factor of regional stability. We are engaged with China very extensively and we believe that globally and regionally China has an important responsibility and role to play for peace, stability, prosperity and development,” Aslam said.
Asked whether Pakistan would support China for the membership of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), she said, “I’m not aware that China has evinced interest in becoming a full member of SAARC but China’s engagement has a positive and salutary impact on SAARC. If China’s role increases, it would benefit the organisation as such.