ISLAMABAD: A senior German diplomat on Monday underscored the need for a regional security architecture for Asia that could serve as a common security system and a forum for dialogue on challenges confronting the region. “Regional security architecture is desperately needed. There are different formats, but not all of them are working well as last Heart of Asia meeting showed,” said acting German Ambassador Dr Jens Jokisch. He was speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day national conference on ‘Regional Security and Foreign Policy in South, Central and West Asia’ that had been jointly organised by Islamabad based think tank Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) and German Foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS). The conference, which was attended by policy makers, academia, media representatives and students of international affairs, aimed at analyzing the issues affecting peace and security of South and Central Asia and the future trends that are likely to shape the security environment of the region. Dr Jokisch cited the German example of working for development of common security systems in Europe in 1970s as a confidence building measure not only between the governments, but also between people. He supported Pakistan’s outreach to Iran and Afghanistan after recent border incidents and observed that the moves helped reduce tensions. The German diplomat said that large projects in the region can only succeed under secure and stable political environment. This, he said, re-emphasises the need for a regional security structure. He called for giving up cold-war era ‘zero-sum’ logic in inter-state relations. “This can happen through confidence building measures and would lead to win-win situations. There is a need for continued dialogue and the role of civil society for promoting long-term understanding between countries,” he said. Strategic Vision Institute President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that Pakistan’s regional environment had assumed special significance particularly in view of convergence of interests of its three neighbours viz India, Iran and Afghanistan as shown by their diplomatic and security exchanges. “Therefore, the challenge before Pakistan is how to strike a balance between its commitment to Saudi Arabia and relations with Iran; address Afghanistan’s concerns; and meaningfully engage India,” he said. Executive Director Center for International Strategic Studies Sarwar Naqvi said that ‘zero-sum’ concept was outdated in today’s modern world. He gave the example of China, which has friendly relations with Pakistan, but is at the same time maintaining robust trade ties with India. “Russia, a traditional ally of India, meanwhile, has developed a good relationship with Pakistan. US is considered as a friend of Pakistan, but it went on to develop strategic partnership with India and is simultaneously keeping good and productive relations with Pakistan,” he said. Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal from the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad said that United States and its allies were competing with China and Russia for influence in the region. “This reaffirms and reforms strategic partnerships in Asia. Furthermore, disputes among the Asian states are resurfacing because of which defense spending in the region is on the rise,” he said. Air Cdr (r) Ghulam Mujadid from Air University said that traditional security issues were dominating the security agenda in the region. “Non-traditional security concerns are increasingly becoming more pronounced. The lack of integration in the region is the main factor influencing regional security dynamics,” he said. He said that the rise of China and the Indian quest for greater power could bring greater stability in South Asian states. “The realisation of Chinese and Indian dreams can be impeded by absence of stability and internal peace in South Asia. This will require resolution of core issues, strengthening of strategic stability, integration of economics and the peoples, and creating a regional approach to combat the non-traditional threats,” he said. Dr Mujeeb Afzal, QAU, pointed out that trans-border religious movements and ethnic issues were the major challenges faced by Central Asian States. He worried that economic disparity and competition for natural resources could lead to disputes among the countries in Central Asia. Dr Shabbir Ahmed Khan, University of Peshawar, said that integration in Central Asia was being stymied by divergent and competing interests of major global powers. In his view the Central Asian States felt more comfortable working with Russia and China, who could also contribute to their security as well. Dr Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, University of Peshawar, said that US, China and Russia could potentially create a security and political paradigm in South Asia that can promote sustainable peace and improve prospects of prosperity.