Moeed Yusuf is Pakistan’s National Security Advisor and talks to The Indian Express about what he considers the stumbling blocks in relations with India, the change happening in Kashmir and the opportunities Afghanistan presents.
The Pakistan National Security Policy refers to a dangerous and regressive mindset in the area that increases the possibility of violent conflict. While you are referring to India, don’t you think Pakistan should see the instability emanating from Afghanistan as a national security concern?
The question is too black-and-white. NSP or any NSP document is basically a statement to intent. You are referring to what happened in my neighborhood two months before the NSP was issued. The NSP is a lengthy process. It talks about Pakistan’s goals and the overall context. India, unfortunately, remains a threat to Pakistan. We see Afghanistan as a major opportunity, if things stabilize, so that connectivity to Central Asia, which we believe is essential to our economic vision, can take off.
Despite your statement in the NSP that you want to resolve all outstanding problems with India through dialogue; what is the conclusion? That Pakistan cannot be at peace, or with India?
Pakistan wants peace with India. The sad truth is that India is in a position where the dominant ideology of the Indian government has blocked all avenues. It is because our conversation is not rational. It is not about whether Pakistan should exist. We have repeatedly said that India is the winner. We want to move forward, but India must provide the enabling environment.
How can you explain then the backchannel process which led to the ceasefire.
Personally, I have come to terms with it and realized that it was just a tactic for India to release the pressure on Kashmir from Western countries. Talking is a conversation, you want to see if each side realizes that ultimately we must move forward, so both sides must sit down and find the middle. And honestly, I don’t pick that up. If there is, India should let us know how it would do it.
The NSP is full the new realities and changes in the world order. How you must adjust to them. This is the new reality in India. Perhaps Pakistan needs to accept it and get on with their business. Are you limiting your options by calling it negative or regressive?
No one is saying we have foreclosed all options for engagement. Who said that statement? We have just invited India into the SAARC summit. India is the one who said that they don’t want to attend. We wouldn’t say that if we had excluded all possibilities for engagement.
The NSP expresses very clear confidence in Pakistan’s ability to move forward on a geoeconomic platform, connectivity, and development partnerships. We won’t wait until our eastern flank is closed before we move forward. CPEC will grow from strength to strength. We will be focusing more on our western border and opening up to Central Asia and Eurasia when it is the right time. If India plays fair, we will also open up the east.
Why is it that you claim the eastern flank has been closed? You are the one who has closed it. If you talk about openings, can Pakistan resume trade with India without making it conditional upon Kashmiri demands?
Your national interests are not sacrificed just because you want a new relationship and connectivity. These two things do not have to be mutually exclusive. It is important to see things from the perspective of a country in order to understand what is necessary for a country’s progress. Pakistan continues to be concerned about Kashmir.
Article 370 was not significant to Pakistani society before August 5, 2019. Why do you now place so much importance on its return?
Of course, Article 370, 35 A are part of the Indian Constitution, provisions or articles that we dont accept… But the point is (Kashmir) has a separate character There has been a qualitative change. This qualitative change must be reversed before we can move forward. It is that simple.
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India has asked for a land route from Pakistan to Afghanistan to access humanitarian supplies. This has not happened. Why?
India wanted to import 50,000 tonnes of wheat after the 15th of August. Our Cabinet approved Pakistan, we announced. However, not a single grain of wheat has crossed Pakistan. This is because I believe that it was a publicity stunt. It was because India believed Pakistan would reject it. We are willing to ship it.
All you have to do is wait for India’s shipment. It is what it is.
India specifically requested the 50,000 tonnes of wheat Note verbales were exchanged. We are waiting for India to send the wheat. It is not for any other purpose, it is only for wheat.
Although the NSP mentions ceasefire in passing, it doesn’t give it much importance. It was expected that it would lead towards a wider peace process. However, it didn’t. Is the backchannel still active?
I will not comment on backchannels. Let me say, however, that Pakistan agreed to the ceasefire because it was saving lives. The media made up the strategic construct that was beyond that. But we accepted it and we will stick to it.
China’s actions in Ladakh against India have caused a lot of instability. The NSP is silent on this. So, where is Pakistan in a military conflict?
I find it funny that India has paranoia about Pakistan. It’s a figment India’s imagination. We will do everything necessary to protect our interests. We want peace everywhere. Did we create this situation while the crisis was raging? Did we do something to undermine India?… Yes, China is our closest strategic partner, theres no question about it And yes, I mean, if India is going to create a problem for Pakistan, we will respond the way a self-respecting nation does. The chief of the Indian Army has stated that Pakistan did nothing to create tensions in your India-China affair.
What is Pakistan’s position on the Quad?
Any structures that would increase this growing great power competition and rivalry in our region won’t suit Pakistan. I believe that we need to find a way to work together on economic platforms, to offer economic bases to each others.
Do you think there are any lessons to be learned from Sri Lanka’s economic failure due to its excessive reliance on China Protests were seen in Gwadar. Is Pakistan looking at Sri Lanka?
The Gwadar demonstration had nothing to do what you suggest. While there were domestic issues with the provision of electricity, and gas, which protestors are protesting against it is not a China-related issue. China’s debt is a small percentage of Pakistan’s total debt. We have no concerns. China’s relationship with Pakistan is so unique, so it is difficult to draw this parallel.