On 23 October 2018, the Cooperative Security Division of the NATO International Military Staff hosted the NATO – Pakistan Military to Military staff talks. The head of the Pakistani Delegation, Lieutenant General Malik Zafar Iqbal met with the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, and the Director General of the NATO International Military Staff, Lieutenant General Jan Broeks.
During his meeting with Lieutenant General Malik Zafar Iqbal, Director General of the Pakistani Joint Staff, the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach recognised “the important role Pakistan has played in regional stability, namely through the continued support provided over the years to NATO’s operational engagement in Afghanistan. Lasting peace will only be achieved in Afghanistan by fully supporting the Afghan-efforts and by eradicating the extremist threats and any safe-heavens”.
The staff talks were co-chaired by Lieutenant General Jan Broeks, Director General of the NATO International Military Staff and Lieutenant General Malik Zafar Iqbal. During his opening address, Lieutenant General Broeks took the opportunity to stress “the need to continue the positive momentum created by previous editions of these military talks. NATO’s leadership, including myself, greatly value our military dialogue and partnership”. For his part, Lieutenant General Zafar Iqbal thanked NATO for hosting the talks and pledged to lead the effort to strengthen and enhance the cooperation between Pakistan and NATO.
The discussions focused on common challenges and threats to both NATO and Pakistan. Particular emphasis was placed on NATO’s role in Afghanistan with its Train, Advise and Assist Mission. “Pakistan has a key role to play in ensuring that the Taliban and the Haqqani Network find no safe havens. And Afghanistan needs the constructive engagement of all its neighbors for its lasting security. For the first time in 17 years, there is real potential for peace in Afghanistan”, highlighted Lieutenant General Broeks.
The NATO-Pakistan relations go beyond the Alliance’s mission in Afghanistan. NATO’s relations with Pakistan have developed progressively since the Alliance assisted Pakistan following the devastating earthquake in 2005. Practical cooperation has gradually enhanced this relationship, starting with the opening of NATO training courses to Pakistani officers. Since 2009, NATO has developed a Tailored Cooperative Package of Activities, listing a series of education and training opportunities open to Pakistani officers and representatives. Contact between the Pakistani senior military leadership and NATO’s authorities have also gradually intensified.
Lieutenant General Broeks concluded that “this has been a productive day of discussions. Once again, we have proven the value of high level talks between NATO and Pakistan. Talks like these are an opportunity to cooperate with the military, build trust and understanding, and promote a culture of cooperative security focused on areas of common interest, such as regional stability and the fight against terrorism”.
During the Staff Talks, the two delegations provided a series of briefings on their assessments of the security situations in the Euro-Atlantic and South Asia regions and NATO’s approach to cooperative security in the Asia-Pacific region. They also discussed a work plan for 2019 military-to-military cooperation.