University of Virginia (UVA) hosted Ambassador Dr. Asad Majeed Khan for a virtual conversation on Pakistan-US relations and regional dynamics in South Asia. The conversation was moderated by UVA’s Vice Provost for Global Affairs Ambassador Steve Mull. Dean, Batten School for Public Policy Mr. Ian Solomon gave the welcoming remarks.
In his opening remarks, the Ambassador highlighted the vibrant and rich cultural and civilizational heritage of Pakistan, the country’s breathtaking landscape, its geo-strategic significance and the government’s vision of geo-economics, anchored in enhanced intra-regional trade and connectivity, to tap the huge potential offered by Pakistan’s enterprising people and its immense natural resources.
Speaking on Pak-US relations, the Ambassador noted that both countries were celebrating the 75th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations in 2022. He said that a healthy momentum of high-level bilateral exchanges had been built during the past year. Institutional dialogues on energy and climate had already taken place while trade, investment and health dialogues will be held soon. He highlighted that the US was still Pakistan’s largest export market and major source of foreign remittances. The Ambassador lauded the important role of Pakistani-American diaspora as bridge builders between the two countries and societies.
On Afghanistan, the Ambassador said that there was complete unanimity of views between Pakistan and the U.S. on the need for peace and stability in the country and ensuring that the Afghan soil is not used for terrorist activities, the importance of an inclusive government and protection of human rights including women rights and girl education. The Ambassador said that for now, the most urgent issue was to avert a humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in Afghanistan that could lead to a refugee crisis as well as resurgence of terrorism and narco-trade in Afghanistan. He also emphasized thatwhile timely measures to avert a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan were important, they will only serve as a “Band-Aid” and much more will be required from the international community to create a sustainable economy in Afghanistan.
The Ambassador highlighted that a peaceful neighborhood was critical to achieving Pakistan’s vision for geo-economics. However, India’s intransigence and refusal to create a conducive environment for dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues including the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir had been an obstacle to South Asia’s economic development. The Ambassador noted that independent analysts around the world were expressing concern over democratic down sliding, increasing illiberalism and human rights violations of minorities all across India including a possible genocide of Muslims. He said that the situation in IIOJK was especially dire as India had doubled down on its brutal suppression of the people of the occupied territory.
The international community had a moral obligation to put pressure on India to reverse its illegal actions of August 5, 2019, which were in contravention to the UNSC Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, stop its human rights violations in IIOJK and start a dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
The event also included a questions and answers session and was attended by UVA students, members of academia and think tank community.