Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif speaks at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 23, 2022 in New York City. After two years of holding the session virtually or in a hybrid format, 157 heads of state and representatives of government are expected to attend the General Assembly in person | Photo: AFP
United Nations: Pakistan is looking for peace with all its neighbours, including India, but sustainable peace and stability in South Asia remain contingent on a just and lasting solution to the Kashmir dispute, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said here on Friday.
In his address to the high-level UN General Assembly session, Shehbaz claimed that India's “illegal and unilateral” actions on August 5, 2019 to change the special status of Jammu and Kashmir further undermined the prospects of peace and inflamed regional tensions.
“Pakistan needs a stable external environment. We look for peace with all our neighbours, including India. Sustainable peace and stability in South Asia, however, remains contingent upon a just and lasting solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” he said.
“I think it's high time that India understood this message loud and clear that both countries are armed to the teeth. War is not an option. It is not an option. Only peaceful dialogue can resolve these issues so that the world becomes more peaceful in time to come,” he said.
India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country. India has said it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.
The ties between India and Pakistan nosedived after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution.
India's decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy.
Shehbaz said that New Delhi has ramped up its military deployments in Jammu and Kashmir, thus making it the "most militarised zone in the world”.
He said the Pakistani people have always stood by Kashmiris in complete solidarity and will continue to do so.
He said he will be forthcoming to sit down and talk to "our Indian counterparts" to pave the way forward for the future so that "our generations do not suffer, so that we spend our resources on mitigating miseries, on building structures to face these floods and outburst of clouds.”
“I assured the World Forum that we in Pakistan remain consistent in our commitment to peace in South Asia. India must take reasonable steps to create an enabling environment for constructive engagement,” he said.
“We are neighbours and we are there forever. The choice is ours. Whether we live in peace or keep on fighting with each other. We have had three wars from 1947 onwards. And as a consequence, only misery, poverty and unemployment have increased on both sides," he added.
Shehbaz said both India and Pakistan should not waste their resources in buying more ammunition and trying to promote tension.
“It's now up to us to resolve our differences, our problems or issues like peaceful neighbours through peaceful negotiations and discussions and save our scarce resources for promoting education and health and employment to millions of people," he said.
On Afghanistan, he said,, at this point isolating the Afghan interim government could aggravate the suffering of the Afghan people who are already destitute.
The Pakistani leader began his address by talking about the devastating floods in his country and said “in this ground zero of climate change”, 33 million people, including women and children, are at high risk from health hazards.
He said 650,000 women have given birth in makeshift tarpaulins, more than 1500 people have died, including over 400 children.
“The undeniable truth is that this calamity has not been triggered by anyhting we have done…What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan," he said.
Shehbaz said Pakistan's urgent priority was to ensure rapid economic growth and lift millions out of poverty and hunger, asserting that to enable any such policy momentum, Pakistan needs a stable external environment.
On terrorism, Shehbaz said Pakistan shares the key concern of the international community regarding the threat posed by major terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan, especially ISIL-K, TTP, as well as al Qaeda, ETIM, and IMU.
“They all need to be dealt with effectively and comprehensively with the support and cooperation of the interim Afghan authorities," he said.
While stating that the UN Security Council and the General Assembly must be empowered to play their respective roles under the UN Charter, he said the Security Council must be expanded by adding 11 new non-permanent members to make it more representative, democratic, transparent, effective and accountable.
He said adding new permanent members will “paralyse” the Council's decision-making, create new centers of privilege in violation of principle of sovereign equality.