Sees no possibility of India catching up with China
Former prime minister of Pakistan, Mr. Shaukat Aziz in an interview has re-viewed Pakistan’s relations with China in the context of overall world sce-nario.
Following are questions and answers:
Fyodor Lukyanov: Mr. Shaukat Aziz I would like to use the opportu-nity to ask broader questions to you because I think that with all due re-spect the Middle Eastern affairs the real arena for big game indicates to come will be South Asia and Asia Pa-cific, so in this regard you are situated, on the one hand, it is a very promising place — Pakistan — but at the same time it is quite a dangerous collusion of different interests. Do you feel in-creased tension over temperature in the region so far?
Shaukat Aziz: in some extent ‘Yes’ in others ‘No’. I think the big change the Delta in the last couple of years and the recent past has been the Paki-stan-India relationship. Since the arri-val of Prime Minister Modi in India we have seen an increase in the tension and deterioration of the overall rela-tionship. I might add that in our time in government a lot of effort was made by both sides, I give equal credit to both sides, it takes two hands to clap. Under Prime Minister Vajpayee, who in fact, is from the same Party as Prime Minis-ter Modi is today but Mr. Vajpayee saw the light and we initiated a process through back channels to have a dia-logue. It included all issues including the issue of Kashmir for discussion; what the outcome would have been was to be debatable. Foreign friends also helped, they were interlocutors in this dialogue and Britain played quite an important part here. Britain has an historical link in the area in the past and understands the region well and we had agreed on a formula based on the Northern Ireland Formula on hav-ing an arrangement in Kashmir; there are two parts of Kashmir, as you know, one is in Indian control, a larger part, and then the smaller part is with Paki-stan and they are contiguous to our re-spective borders. So, that allowed free movement of people from one side to the other, trade relations, etc, bus ser-vices to get the temperature down and then we would go further to see how things develop. We were very excited, Prime Minister Vajpayee, whom I would consider really a substantial leader in many ways. He pursued this and then for final implementation it was decided to wait for his re-election. Unfortunately, in the election his party, the BJP Party, lost and the Congress came back and BJP because it was based more on a sort of harder attitude towards Pakistan. The fact that Prime Minister Vajpayee was negotiating with us was positive but they lost the election for some domestic reasons that included this and because they lost the election the whole momentum went out of window. What I want to say is that even with the ultra right sort of Party in India, not traditionally a friend of Pakistan, if you have the right peo-ple on both sides you can make pro-gress. So, I remain cautiously optimis-tic that if India and Pakistan want, they can come to an arrangement which is very mature, very well thought out, and it is a win-win for both, rather a win-lose for anybody. Having said that since Prime Minister Modi has come up in government, he has raised the rhetoric against Pakistan, not just domestically but even externally and I think we need, perhaps, some of the major powers to intervene. Now let us try to solve the issues. Both the coun-tries have enough challenges domesti-cally, so, they don’t have to worry about creating issues across each other’s borders and I hope that happens because I think the peace dividend which will come from an understanding between the two countries will be really very lucrative for both sides and time has come that we worry about our people and future and what we can do to improve their standard of living. Both countries’ economies have done well, they have positive growth, in-vestment is coming in despite all these factors, and India, of course, is much bigger country so they have many more opportunities but many more complexities. I think now is one of the more challenging periods, so whether the United States with the new Ad-ministration, whether Russia, whether China, whether the United Nations, these are four stakeholders and even Britain, I think because of the traditional ties, can play a very important role. Should anybody wish to pursue this, I think, as I said earlier the peace dividend will be very attractive for the whole region and the world.
Fyodor Lukyanov: What we heard from Britain after Brexit, after referendum, the increase of hostility vis-a-vis foreigners in general not even Poles and Lithiunians, but in general rise of xenophobia; do you in Pakistan feel this or it is exaggerated?
Shaukat Aziz: No, for the Pakistani population, I don’t see this as a major change; certainly part of my family lives there, so, I go there very often, nobody has ever mentioned this and in all stratas of society we are not the tar-get because Pakistanis have been there for decades, they are not taking any new jobs away, the European phenomena the opening up which I thought was very interesting idea geo-politically, if Europe can be united and have open borders and people going back and forth, I think that is positive. However, because of what happened in the Middle East and then people coming into Europe that opening of borders created some concerns in some parts and within the Union too. But it was done and I believe every country must have the right to control people entering their country. This is a part of sovereignty, that doesn’t mean that you should build a wall. No. But what you could do is just check who is coming, who is going, because of no other reason, it is not racial, it is not economic, it is nothing of the sort, it is a security issue and the fight against terrorism and extremism, some country like ours which has gone through it and a person like me who has been a target, I think we need to have balance, the humanitarian side of the refugees, I am very supportive and every sane person would be; but the free movement, I think, can create some challenges and though what happens is good people suffer in terms of controls being put in because one or two people who try to create unpleasant situation. So, back to Pakistani community in the UK, they live very open and I must say that if there is a tolerant society, I have seen, the UK and the USA have been very tolerant historically.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Back to India and Pakistan relationship. Now just partly because of what you mentioned about openness and global environment, we cannot separate this issue from broader context in particular from growing Chinese role in the world and in the region. So when I visit India, frankly, I feel something like an obsession with Chinese manners and problems generated by Chinese rise. Indians are pretty suspicious vis-a-vis Russian-Chinese rapprochement and so on. And of course they see Pakistan not only as a traditional rival but also part of Chinese expansion. How would you evaluate the China-Pakistan relation-ship?
Shaukat Aziz: I had been in the government, I was there for almost eight to ten years, first as Finance Minister, then as Prime Minister and I was intimately involved in our dealings with China and I still remain in contact with the Chinese. In my time in government not once in any discussion at any level did we talk about our relationship in the context of India. We discussed issues like we discussed to-day, we have the issue of Kashmir, we have other issues but there was no ink-ling of ganging up or having some joint strategy, nothing of the sort. I find China very mature in its dealings. We have an excellent bilateral relationship whether it is on diplomacy, whether it is on the economy, whether it is on security, we have a common border and now what China is doing is very his-toric with Pakistan and perhaps will do with other countries too. The One Belt, One Road initiative is amazing, it is billions of dollars being spent on infra-structure, on building connectivity and connectivity between countries – land, sea, air and digital – is the key to expanding relationship. The same could apply to Russia-Pakistan too and so on and so forth. So I find China’s attitude and this is from personal experience, not reading reports or anything. So, maybe the concern in India is because they see themselves as a counter to China and most countries in the world don’t think so. I think they are in different orbits and it will take quite a while for India to get anywhere in the orbit where China is. However, there is no harm in thinking of yourself in any orbit you want so long you can get there. But I really believe this paranoid if there is any in India about China is misguided and misunderstood. I think India China should also have a good relationship, there is no reason why? Same goes for Russia Pakistan relationship, you know, I think, there is a much more opening up on both sides, is still below potential. Understanding, we all stand for the same good to each other and despite historically Pakistan being in, you know, SEATO, CENTO, all the treaties, there is no reason why we can’t move the page and create a new paradigm which will be helpful for both countries.
Fyodor Lukyanov: I fully agree with you about deficits of Shanghai Cooperation Organization and I think many people in Russia are aware of that —— What is important to see what is going on here internally. There is a mental transformation which can be described in the following way that Russia starts to perceive itself not as periphery of Europe but as core of new emerging Eurasia and this is a pro-found change in angle and that might energise Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Eurasia and this new understanding, it is not only about Central Asia, Russia and China but the whole continent, of course, India and Pakistan are crucial.
Shaukat Aziz: I think both can be done, to make it easier both can be done.
We can re-energise Shanghai Cooperation Organization and doesn’t take away any thing from the countries west of South Asia to do what suits their national interests and one has to be pragmatic about this. But clearly business as usual may not be the right way for SCO and there is need for owner-ship, change and get more runs on the board as we say.
Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much Mr. Shaukat Aziz.
Shaukat Aziz: Pleasure to meeting you.