The “nuclearisation” of the Indian Ocean, primarily by India, has destabilised the region, Foreign Affairs Adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Sartaj Aziz said in Karachi on Saturday. Speaking at a maritime conference, Aziz said the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, piracy, illegal fishing and climate change were some of the challenges to peace in the region, Dawn reported.
“We are aware of our national interests and every effort will be made to strengthen our capacity,” Aziz said, adding that Islamabad had to “maintain a significant naval presence” in the Indian Ocean to keep its sea lanes open and defend its interests there. Noting the Indian Navy’s increased presence and expansion, the senior government official said Pakistan had a “strategic stake in the peaceful navigation and security” of the region.
Meanwhile, a group of South Asia experts in Washington urged United States President Donald Trump’s administration to review the country’s relations with Pakistan, The Hindu reported. At the release of a report, Hudson Institute Director for South and Central Asia Husain Haqqani said US policy in the last few decades had not prompted Pakistan to review its support for militant groups.
“The US support to strengthen the Pakistani military has only strengthened those elements that hope to wrest Kashmir from India through force,” said Haqqani, a former ambassador for Pakistan to Washington. Similarly, Heritage Foundation Asian Studies Center Senior Research Fellow Lisa Curtis said the key for the US was to “maintain robust relations with both [India and Pakistan] separately, based on the merits of each bilateral relationship.”
While senior Pakistani diplomat Ubaid-Ur-Rehman Nizamani welcomed some of the report’s recommendations, he said Islamabad’s security concerns “are being portrayed as paranoia”.
Aziz’s remarks and the release of the report come even as diplomatic relations between Islamabad and New Delhi threaten to worsen again. On Thursday, Pakistan claimed that India was building a “secret nuclear city” to disrupt the “strategic balance of power in the region”, a charge which Indian government spokesperson Vikas Swarup rejected. Swarup, in turn, accused Pakistan of trying to divert attention from terrorism on its soil.
On Sunday, at least two Indian soldiers were killed in an encounter with militants in Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said the militants came to India from Pakistan.