General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Pakistan Armed Forces
Bismillah Ir Rahman Ir Rahim. Ministers, chiefs, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Assalamu Alaikum and a very good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking IISS and especially you, John, for inviting me here and giving me this opportunity. I am privileged to share my views regarding new challenges for crisis management in Asia-Pacific and on how governments with important stakes in the security of Asia should construct more effective means of managing security.
From my prism, South Asian stability is indirectly linked to that of Asia-Pacific, South Asia being the most populous, less affluent and a conflict-prone subregion. Despite unresolved territorial disputes and shifting geostrategic realignments, Islamabad is proactively making efforts to reduce the strains on strategic stability.
I find Asia-Pacific to be a mosaic of unique cultures that can build common grounds. I believe a constructive approach can reduce the risks and build opportunities. It is our choice to rise peacefully and develop a shared destiny, or become a victim of the prisoner’s dilemma and deal with the consequences of non-traditional and non-geographical security threats, such as Daesh and crises in the Korean Peninsula, all pointing towards the volatility in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, all is not black. There are unmistakable positive trajectories. Asia-Pacific’s economic independence and liberalisation have become a regional engine of growth and are strong incentives to avoid conflict. Such evolving economic independence has and can help to mitigate conflict scenarios.
With respect to crisis management, I would like to put forward some trends and propositions about the interplay of Asia-Pacific and South Asia as evident on the geostrategic canvas.
The existing primacy of conflict management over conflict resolution may pose greater challenges for crisis management in the long run. South Asian challenges towards crisis management have increased owing to lack of mutual trust and political will, absence of dialogue, and disinterest by major powers in playing a role in resolving the outstanding disputes.
Daesh is a serious emerging threat in our part of the world and, as we have heard today, beyond. Maritime terrorism is gaining fresh impetus. The threat of transnational terrorism by non-state actors may increase owing to availability of new technologies and the asymmetrical strategies such actors have developed. For piracy, beefing up maritime security is essential. Fewer than 10% of global cross-border refugees originate in Asia-Pacific, but the total population of refugees from the region increased by 63% between 2008 and 2014. Pakistan is hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the world and this has stressed our internal security environment.
The ageing population in Asia-Pacific is set to create a demographic tax on growth. Contrarily, a bulge of about 700 million unemployed and less-skilled youth in South Asia is a human-resource management challenge. Technologically, cyberspace has emerged as the global common and carries with it the attendant security challenges that many have discussed today.
These trends play into Asia’s geopolitics and the potential for anarchic instability cannot be simply wished away. While the emerging threats affect regional states differently, what I feel is absent is an approach to shared threat perception. In my view, Pacific and Indian oceans are large enough to accommodate common and even competing interests. Soft balancing could be a preferred strategy to manage conflicting interests.
Another emerging determinant of a crisis is that the regional countries are most likely to boost military spending due to domestic reasons and as a hedge against evolving uncertainties. We need to be careful about this phenomenon.
Such a challenging environment affecting Asia-Pacific regional security begs simple answers to the question of what should be the way forward? In my view, a successful crisis-management model in Asia-Pacific cannot evolve without diplomatic engagement and economic involvement of major powers. It is important to exercise restraint and normalise the political and military temperature and situation through shaping an environment of trust by reducing the scale of military manoeuvres.
Classic approaches like economic cooperation, collaborative security mechanisms, deterrence and diplomacy may be considered, giving due chance for crisis management. For long-term peace and stability in the region, conflict-resolution strategies should be central to addressing deep-rooted problems.
Balance-of-power approaches to address transnational terrorism threats would be insufficient. Efforts for multilateral counter-terrorism collaboration on the lines of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group offer prospective dialogue and reconciliation. In this regard, active diplomatic engagement may be pursued to manage the deepening fault lines.
Crisis management through economic interdependence and trade promotion is the evolving paradigm, especially as envisaged in the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) strategy, whose flagship project is the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. We believe OBOR can dilute the incentives for conflict.
On the subregional basis, for management of relationships, the following may be considered: improvement of communication channels, both military and political; building confidence through measures like hotlines and advance notification of mechanisms for military exercises and manoeuvres; develop best-practice models for crisis avoidance and crisis management; promotion of arms-control agreements in the region; keeping the Indian Ocean region immune from contestation in Asia-Pacific. Participation of South Asian powers in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation shall also open new vistas for subregional cooperation and stability.
Ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan has contributed to the security of Asia-Pacific through humanitarian-assistance, disaster-relief, counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations. Pakistan has contributed wholeheartedly to international efforts on humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief operations. As we speak today, one of the Pakistan Navy’s ships is in Sri Lanka for flood-relief operations and humanitarian assistance to the affected people.
Post-9/11, Pakistan has augmented international efforts for countering terrorism and extremism through active operations and sharing of intelligence, and provision of unprecedented ground and aerial logistical support. Pakistan has contributed significantly in Combined Task Force 150 and Combined Task Force 151. Pakistan’s commitment to international peace and security under the auspices of the UN is well established; currently, Pakistan is one of the largest troop-contributing nations to the UN.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by saying that crisis stability in the Asia-Pacific region remains embedded in the politics and behaviour of major powers and individual countries. As a sequel, crisis management shall remain dependent upon the choices of these major powers and countries, necessitating deeper engagement in the region. This is doable, but requires political will and courage.
I thank you.