Phnom Penh: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said this week that a peaceful resolution of long-standing disputes in the South Asian region was critical for sustainable peace and prosperity of people.
Speaking at the 29th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) summit here, he said: “We also believe that, while focusing on the Ukrainian conflict, the world must not lose sight of other disputes, protracted conflicts, and situations of foreign occupation, which have the potential to destabilise the entire Asia-Pacific region.”
“We strongly condemn and reject illegal and unilateral measures to perpetuate unlawful occupation and to effect demographic changes in occupied territories, in gross violation of Security Council resolutions and international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.”
He said such actions had vitiated the environment for meaningful and result-oriented dialogue. Given the right conducive conditions, all outstanding disputes could be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy in the interest of regional peace, stability, and prosperity.
He congratulated the body for coming together at this important juncture in the collective efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation for peace and stability in the Asia Pacific.
“As we gather today for in-person meetings after several months of long-distance diplomacy, our region and the world at large are beset with challenges in multiple domains.”
“This is truly an inflexion point in history, and the steps we take or fail to take, would have profound consequences for the future,” the minister noted.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic was unprecedented in terms of its global scale as well as socio-economic impact. The international cooperation and solidarity that it engendered was also unparalleled.
“Yet, we also saw the unfortunate rise of the phenomenon of vaccine nationalism as countries competed for the same resources to save lives and protect their populations.”
Going forward, he said, it would be important to develop mechanisms and processes for a more coordinated response to future health crises, undertake efforts to ensure vaccine equity, and fight future pandemics in a more humane manner.
Covid-19 exacerbated the economic woes of nations from North to South. Supply chains were disrupted, unemployment mounted, growth rates plummeted, and debt burden accumulated, Zardari continued.
He said the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) was laudable for providing much-needed relief to developing nations in distress. “More can, and should, be done for reinforcing the recovery efforts, especially in the global south.”
He called climate change an existential threat and said its impact on sustainable development and human well-being was incalculable.
“As I speak, my country is ravaged by floods caused by unprecedented rains. Dozens of towns and villages have been inundated and thousands have been displaced,” he informed.
“We fear that the damage to crops would exacerbate food insecurity and inflation that have already reached alarming levels because of the current global trends.”
“We need to collectively respond to the threat posed by climate change — by equitably sharing the burden and the responsibility. In order to mitigate its negative impact and to adapt meaningfully, the promised climate finance must be made available to the developing countries,” Zardari said.
“The skyrocketing of fuel and food prices has imposed new costs – from economic to social to political. For citizens, the burden has been increasingly unbearable; for governments, the pressures are unsustainable. The volatility of international markets is intensified due to heightened tensions and ongoing military conflict.”
The minister stressed that urgent measures were required to contain and reverse these adverse trends.
“The world community must join hands to find collective solutions, particularly those that work for the most gravely impacted nations. They have limited financial capacity and require greater international support, solidarity and cooperation.”
He said “the most obvious challenge is evident in the realm of geopolitics.” “Today, the global environment is in tremendous flux, the international system distinctly fragile and adrift.”
“Great power rivalries have accentuated; bloc politics seems to be returning; new groupings and small configurations are emerging — with potential military dimensions in certain instances.”
Confrontation will not serve anyone’s interest, he opined and said it will only result in disruption, destabilization and potential conflict and the consequences of such an eventuality would be grave — not just for the protagonists, but for everyone.
“At this defining moment, it is indispensable to avoid unilateral and provocative actions and to proceed with the utmost caution and prudence. Pakistan believes that a recommitment to the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and to effective multilateralism is imperative. Equally imperative is the need to have a coherent vision of a world order based on peaceful coexistence, pacific settlement of disputes, win-win cooperation, and shared prosperity.”
Zardari also expressed concern at the continuation of the Ukraine conflict and said it reflected the failure of diplomacy.
“Cessation of hostilities, continued focus on humanitarian needs, and resumption of sustained dialogue, are essential. However, challenging the quest for a diplomatic solution in accordance with relevant multilateral agreements, international law, and the provisions of the UN Charter must continue apace.”
Zardari said a peaceful, stable, prosperous and connected Afghanistan was critical for our region.
“Pakistan has emphasized the importance of inclusivity in governance and respect for the human rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls. There is also a shared expectation that Afghanistan’s soil will not be allowed to be used for terrorism against any country.”
He emphasised that in order to address the economic and humanitarian challenges, Pakistan had called for de-freezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets and de-linking humanitarian assistance from political considerations.
“Pakistan stands ready to work with ARF partners to strengthen this forum and to develop its linkages with other international platforms for confidence building and conflict prevention. Our aspiration for a Full Dialogue Partnership is a sign of our continued commitment to relations with ASEAN.”
The minister said Pakistan will remain a strong partner in all endeavours for peace, stability and development of our region and beyond.