Pakistan compelled to upgrade defence capabilities: FO

* Islamabad expresses concerns over Indian test-fire of anti-ballistic missile * FO spokesman says all QCG members trying to bring Afghan Taliban to dialogue table

Pakistan compelled to upgrade defence capabilities: FO


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday voiced concerns over India’s test-fire of supersonic interceptor missile and said it would “take all necessary measures to augment the country’s defence capabilities”.

“We are not oblivious to our defence needs and we will be compelled to upgrade our defence capabilities through suitable technologies,” the Foreign Office spokesman said in a weekly press briefing here at the Foreign Office.

India test-fired its anti-ballistic missile Ashwin on May 15 that is capable of intercepting and bringing down hostile ballistic missiles.

Spokesman Nafees Zakaria said, “We reserve the right to maintain an effective deterrence and Pakistan is prepared to defend its people and borders.” He said that Indian actions were against the spirit of a peaceful and friendly neighbourhood and “would upset the balance of power in the region”.

The spokesman said that Pakistan had expressed its concerns about India’s missile test and ambitious missile programme at the plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva this week.

About the view that India was trying to maintain relations with Pakistan on one hand and upgrading its defence equipment to build pressure on Pakistan on the other, the spokesman said, “Normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India will require sincere efforts, good faith and commitment from both countries. We have already conveyed that the dialogue process will not be a concession from one side to the other, but a modus vivendi [arrangement to coexist peacefully] between the two countries.”

About the fifth meeting of the Quadrilateral Cooperation Group (QCG) in Islamabad on May 18, the Foreign Office spokesman said all members were making sincere efforts to bring the Taliban and other groups to the negotiations table. When asked about slow progress of QCG meetings, he said the conflict spanned over decades was taking its due course to settle. “We are dealing with a 36-year-old turmoil with 15 years of military efforts by the world’s powerful countries. These countries are still endeavouring for peace and stability,” he said.

He said that within just six months of its inception, the QCG had made sincere efforts with a unanimous opinion that peace should be given a chance, being the only option to move forward.

When asked to comment on Afghanistan’s view that Pakistan was not taking action against the Haqqani network, Zakaria said that Pakistan’s sincerity should not be doubted. “Such negative statements strengthen the interests of those who do not want peace to flourish,” he said.

When asked about Pakistan’s response to Afghanistan’s peace deal with the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar group, he said that Pakistan welcomed the move. He said it was encouraging that Afghanistan was engaging with other groups on its own with an objective of enduring peace.

To a question about the US decision to suspend the funding for F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan, Zakaria said that Pakistan-US relations should not be judged on the basis of this single issue. He said the matter was still under discussion in the US and the chapter had not been closed yet.

About the arrest of Foreign Ministry’s senior director Shafqat Ali Cheema by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on charges of human trafficking, the spokesman said the ministry would fully cooperate with the investigators. He said the ministry itself had sent a reference to the NAB against Cheema and it gave a clear message that no concession would be given to any official involved in illegal activities.

Referring to the reports that both Pakistan and China were concerned about the security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the spokesman said the CPEC was an important project for both countries and terrorist elements wanted to sabotage it, but Pakistan would take all steps for security of this project.

About the issuance of Red Warrants for Masood Azhar, chief of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed, by Interpol, Zakaria said that he was aware of this development.

Answering a question about the Pakistani foreign secretary’s meeting with his Indian counterpart last month, the Foreign Office spokesman said the foreign secretary took up the issue of Samjhauta Express arson attack with his Indian counterpart and expressed concerns over a lack of Indian interest in the investigation into this incident. He said that 46 Pakistanis were killed in this incident.