ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Thursday said it was against an arms race in the region but was firmly committed to maintaining credible minimum deterrence.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said: “We are opposed to any arms race in South Asia and have been proposing measures for promoting restraint in both the nuclear and conventional domains. However, we cannot remain oblivious to these developments and are firmly committed to maintaining credible minimum deterrence through taking any measures, as necessary. Pakistan is fully confident of its ability to do so.”

Commenting on the India-Russia defence deal worth billions of dollars, the spokesperson said the countries which were providing weapons to India should make sure that this does not disturb balance of power in the region. 

To a question, Dr Faisal said that Pakistan had not shied away from talks with India and was open to discuss all issues including Jammu and Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen and terrorism.

About Saudi Arabia’s plans to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the spokesperson said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had held discussions about the possibility of Saudi Arabia’s investment in projects in Pakistan under the CPEC.

“However, the details have not been worked out as yet. Both Pakistan and China are open to third party or country investments in some projects of CPEC, including the Special Economic Zone. Besides Saudi Arabia, other countries are also welcome to invest in SEZs under CPEC,” he added.

Faisal said the engagement between Pakistan and the United States had increased as is evident from the recent meetings between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and various US government officials.

In response to a question, he said Pakistan’s stance “remains unchanged” in Shakeel Afridi’s case”. Afridi had helped the US find Osama Bin Laden in 2011 and is considered a traitor by Islamabad.

Asked about US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Pakistan, he said Zalmay Khalilzad discussed the way forward on seeking political settlement in Afghanistan.

“He held meetings with the Foreign Secretary (Tehmina Janjua) and the Foreign Minister (Shah Mehmood Qureshi). The visit took place following the Foreign Minister's visit to Washington and Secretary of States’ visit to Islamabad where both sides agreed to re-engage and work together on the common objective of peace and stability in Afghanistan through a politically negotiated settlement,” the spokesperson said.

Faisal added: “We have conveyed to the US side that while Pakistan will take all possible steps, in good faith, to facilitate the process for political settlement, it remains a shared responsibility. The role of the US, National Unity Government of Afghanistan and other regional players is equally important. That is why Ambassador Khalilzad is visiting other countries including UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to elicit their support.”

About the possible expulsion of Bangladeshi High Commissioner in Pakistan and its connection with the non-issuance of Agreement of Pakistan Ambassador-designate to Dhaka Saqlain Syedah by Dhaka, the spokesperson said: “The Agreement of an ambassador is a bilateral issue and is being pursued through diplomatic channels.  No other action has been taken.”

Asked if Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London Sahibzada Ahmed Khan, who was previously recalled, was going back to London, he said: “I do not have updates.”

About Pakistan and China’s deal to manufacture unmanned aircraft jointly, the spokesperson said the military can provide better information.

On elections in held Kashmir, Faisal said the so-called “elections” in the occupied Kashmir are completely sham. “This is just a cover up for the Indian atrocities in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.  As far as the dialogue process is concerned, the hesitant attitude of India is in front of you, having moved one step forward and then going back.  Such sham efforts and missteps cannot result in something fruitful.”

To a question, Faisal said the there was no ban on working of the International Non-Governmental Organisations in the country. “Pakistan appreciates the role and work of different INGOs in advancing our development priorities. The INGO Registration Committee under the Chairmanship of Ministry of Interior follows due process and transparency in reviewing the applications received for registration of INGOs. This also includes opportunity for an appeal by the INGO,” he elaborated.

So far, he said, cases of 141 INGOs had been reviewed and out of them 74 have been given permission. “This represents more than 50 per cent of applications received. Further, there is review of number of new applications that is in the pipeline,” he explained.

Earlier, the spokesperson gave the update on the foreign policy front.  He condemned atrocities in occupied Kashmir.