Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday raked up the Kashmir issue with regard to relations with India, saying sustainable peace and stability in South Asia depended on a lasting solution to the dispute at the centre of three wars the two neighbours had fought since 1947. The prime minister, however, called for peaceful dialogue with India to resolve the issues and said “war was not an option”.
“India’s illegal and unilateral occupation of the Kashmiri people and its ruthless campaign against Kashmiris hampers the cause of peace between the two countries,” Sharif claimed in his address at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, where he also highlighted Pakistan’s devastating floods.
He added, “Pakistan needs a stable economy, and we look for peace with all our neighbours including India. Sustainable peace and stability in South Asia, however, remains contingent upon a just and lasting solution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute…”
Sharif further said the two neighbouring countries could not afford to spend money on getting “armed to teeth” but should use their resources to “feed, educate, provide jobs and healthcare” to their people.
“I think it’s high time that India understands this message that both countries are armed to the teeth. War is not an option, only peaceful dialogue can resolve issues so that the world becomes more peaceful in the time to come,” Sharif said, highlighting that Pakistan remained consistent in its commitment to peace in South Asia.
India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir was, is and shall forever remain an integral part of the country, and that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution.
The Pakistan PM described India’s abrogation of Article 370 as undermining the prospect of peace calling it “illegal” and an attempt to “alter the demographic structure” of Kashmir. He said this had inflamed regional tension as New Delhi had ramped up military deployment in the erstwhile state making it one of the most “militarised zones” in the world. He also accused the central government of issuing fake domicile certificates to non-Kashmiris.
“India must take credible steps to create an enabling environment for constructive engagement. We are neighbours forever and the choice is ours to live in peace or keep fighting,” Sharif said, adding that the tense relations between India and Pakistan had only brought upon “misery, poverty and unemployment” in the form of three wars.
He said: “We have had three wars since 1947 and, as a consequence, have brought upon only misery, poverty and unemployment and it’s on us to resolve our differences through deliberation and discussion. So that we can save our resources to provide education, healthcare and employment to scores of youth.”
‘Dire flood situation signals global crisis’
Sharif also described the floods in Pakistan as an unprecedented “climate catastrophe” due to a “monster monsoon”, saying “what happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan”. He warned the UN that climate disasters will not remain confined to his country.
“Pakistan has never seen such a devastating example of the impact of global warming. Life in Pakistan has changed forever,” he said underlining that his country was a victim of climate injustice despite being responsible for less than 1 per cent of carbon emissions.
“Why are my people paying the price of such high global warming through no fault of their own? Nature has unleashed her fury on Pakistan without looking at our carbon footprint, which is next to nothing,” he said in an appeal to the global forum.
He added: “Over 1,500 of my people, including over 400 children, have gone from this world in this great flood. Far more are in peril from disease and malnutrition. As we speak, millions of climate migrants are still looking for dry land to pitch their tents on.”
He said his country was among the most vulnerable when it comes to what scientists and experts called “climate hotspots”, saying UN chief Antonio Guterres had visited climate refugees and interacted with them. He also thanked all the countries and organisations that had stood by Pakistan in its “trying time”.
“But, my real worry is about the next stage of this challenge, when the cameras are gone and the story shifts away to conflicts like Ukraine. My country will be left alone, high and dry, suffering consequences that it did not create… Permanent food insecurity, uncertain futures, 11 million people pushed further below the poverty line,” he said, adding “the definition of national security has changed and world leaders must come together as after a point of time there will be no Earth left to fight wars over.”
Pakistan has been lashed by unprecedented monsoon downpours flooding a third of the country, killing 1,545 people with thousands more injured and displaced. Swelling waters have swept away villages, roads and bridges, and at one point inundated a third of Pakistan’s territory. The displaced are living in makeshift tents without protection from mosquitoes, and often with little access to clean drinking water or washing facilities. Stagnant floodwaters have led to widespread cases of skin and eye infections, diarrhoea, malaria, typhoid, and dengue fever.
‘Pakistan biggest victim of terrorism’
Sharif said Pakistan strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and his country was the “biggest victim of terrorism”. “Terrorism does not have a religion. Our armed forces with the support of our people have broken the back of terrorism within Pakistan… Yet we continue to suffer terrorist attacks from across the border and we are determined to defeat such cross-border terrorism,” he said.
On Afghanistan, he said at this point isolating the Afghan interim government could aggravate the suffering of the Afghan people who are already destitute. The PM shared the key concern of the international community regarding the threat posed by major terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan, especially ISIL-K, TTP, as well as al-Qaeda, ETIM, and IMU.
“They all need to be dealt with effectively and comprehensively with the support and cooperation of the interim Afghan authorities,” he said.
While stating that the UN Security Council and the General Assembly must be empowered to play their roles under the UN Charter, he said the Security Council must be expanded by adding 11 new non-permanent members to make it more representative, democratic, transparent, effective and accountable.
(with agency inputs)
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