8 Mar 2002
By Our Staff Reporter
KARACHI, March 7: Pakistan's former foreign minister Sardar Aseff Ahmad Ali has made a strong plea to "postpone forcing a military solution of Kashmir issue on India for at least next 20 years" , and urged to focus on national economic uplift.
" We lost 1965 war, in terms of failing to achieve our objectives", he told a gathering of business executives on Thursday, and added " and were again trapped into 1971 war with India and lost half of the country." " For the last over 50 years, we tried to force a military solution on India, but we failed", the former foreign minister said. He did not accept that Kashmiris uprising could create a situation of economic instability for India.
Mr Ali, who was foreign minister in Benazir's tenure during 1993-96, was invited by the Management Association of Pakistan on Thursday to speak on the 'Peace and Reconstruction in Afghanistan and Trade with Central Asian Republics'.
In his more than 90 minutes speech, he spoke on emerging scenario in Afghanistan while responding to questions from the participants, but drifted to Pakistan's ties with India, when during the presentation, Mr Ali spoke as to how the foreign policy influenced the economy of a country and a constantly unfinished and ongoing " national security agenda of the permanent establishment in Pakistan".
" It is simply a change of tactics" ,he hastily clarified, explaining that by no means he was proposing a capitulation to India on the Kashmir issue. " We need to keep the Kashmir issue alive and maintain our moral stance" , he said adding, but sending Jihadis was no solution.
Mr Ali also made a plea to " normalise relations and open up trade with India". "New Delhi will talk to us on Kashmir when there is a realisation that it was in their national interest" , he added. In fact, he accused both, New Dehli and Islamabad, of playing to the tune of Hindu chauvinists in India and to the Jihadi lobby in Pakistan.
He said that neither of the two neighbours were behaving like responsible nuclear powers. " The USA and USSR constantly exchanged notes on developments in nuclear technology", he recalled. Sardar Aseff was confident of Pakistan's potential to emerge as a big economic power in the region if the conflict between "permanent establishment and civil society comes to end."
" Pakistan can mop up forex reserves of over $ 20 billion in next five years", he claimed. " Quick privatisation and fast deregulation" was the prescription offered by Sardar Aseff to create an investor-friendly environment in Pakistan. He said the foreign investors were reluctant to come to the country because of the bureaucratic rigmarole and hassles.
" The state also needs prudence, not morality alone" was the second prescription offered by the PPP leader, who was not happy with fast-track documentation drive by the military government to bring the informal sector in the fold of taxation.
He recalled that Pakistan's economy was under most severe sanctions and embargoes after 1998 nuclear explosions. " It was the informal sector that kept Pakistan's economy afloat", he recalled, and said the documentation drive has drained out whatever little cash was in the market. " Growth and development should be our targets", he urged.
He proposed a constitutional guarantee for protection of foreign investments of all types, as according to him, freezing of foreign currency accounts in May 1998 after nuclear blasts, was a " day-time robbery". It had shattered the confidence of the investors, he added. He was confident that once an investor-friendly environment was created, the three million Pakistani expatriates with liquid cash of about $30 to 32 billion and assets of over $100 billion would be the main source of the investment. " We can ensure a yearly inflow of $5 billion from our fellow Pakistanis every year", he said.
Sardar Aseff denied that the PPP government was responsible for creating the Taliban syndrome in Afghanistan. But, he conceded, the Taliban enjoyed strategic depth in Pakistan- in refugee camps and militant religious outfits.