The Defense Minister of Italy, H.E. Roberta Pinotti, visited NUST on Monday, September 19, 2016, and delivered keynote address on the past and present of Italian contributions to peacekeeping and stability around the world as well as the pioneering role that Italy had played in the formulation of internationally recognized and respected definitive humanitarian principles of humane conduct during conflict from the platform of the Global Think Tank Network (GTTN) Lecture Series.
The keynote took place as part of a distinguished panel consisting of GTTN Senior Fellows: Riaz Khokhar, former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan; Humayun Gauhar, renowned intellectual and noted man of letters; and Brig (R) Mujahid Alam, Principal Lawrence College and former senior Pakistani commander in UN peacekeeping missions. The panel was moderated by Owais Ghani, GTTN Senior Fellow and former Governor of Balochistan and KPK. National Security Advisor, Lt General (R) Nasser Khan Janjua was also present amongst the audience.
Amer Hashmi, Advisor NUST and President GTTN, welcomed the Italian Defense Minister and lauded the role of Italy in utilizing its economic and military strength for promoting regional and global peace. H.E. Stefano Pontecorvo, the Ambassador of Italy to Pakistan, briefly introduced the illustrious political career of Madam Pinotti and shared the critical role her leadership skills had played in the structural transformation of the Italian Armed Forces leading to greater integration of their defense capabilities.
Madame Pinotti explained the indispensable role played by Italy before and after its unification in the historical evolution of international humanitarian principles applicable during wartime and in conflict zones. She explained that there was a fundamental organic link between the constitutional processes of Italian state making and statehood and humane international legal developments that stressed the importance of civilized conduct among belligerents and kind treatment of non-combatants. The Minister said Italy’s defense and foreign policies were based on the need to create peace globally. She stated that Italy’s constitution rejected “war as an offence against the freedom of other peoples and as an instrument for resolving international disputes.” This focus on peace, she said, allowed Italy to quickly recover from the massive destruction to its economy, society, and infrastructure caused by the World Wars 1 and 2. She enumerated the proactive role played by Italy in the global war against terrorism and lauded Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism. She informed the audience that Italy was one of the largest contributors to the UN and NATO peacekeeping missions.
Owais Ghani stressed that Pakistan seemed fated to play the role of the “gatekeeper of Hindu Kush” and that the future could hold greater challenges in store for the country than the odds it had been facing and confronting since the late 1970s after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Riaz Khokhar opined that the world had grown to be an alarmingly unstable place, what with the snowballing conflicts in the Greater Middle East. He acclaimed the balanced role Italy had played in NATO and the excellent humanitarian and peacekeeping service provided by its peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Brigadier (R) Mujahid Alam observed that in recent years Italy had had to shift its attention from peacekeeping missions in Africa to Middle East and Afghanistan. He also highlighted that Italy was undergoing major restructuring of its armed forces with reduced defense budget. He stated defense and peacekeeping would become somewhat challenging for Italy but not unachievable by any manner of means in view of Italy’s strong military and peacekeeping track record.
Humayun Gauhar said the situation around the world was changing fast because the world was undergoing deep structural transformations. He said the root causes of global terrorism had to be kept in mind. He said non-state terrorism was historically the product of state terrorism and that nobody should have had the right to invade other countries. He said it was about time the hegemonic mind-set was jettisoned by powerful countries.
In response to a question about Indian atrocities in Indian-held Kashmir, the Minister said that in her meeting with Pakistan’s President and Defense Minister, the serious situation of Indian-held Kashmir was discussed. She said Italian PM and Foreign Minister would participate in the ongoing UN General Assembly and that that was the right forum to deliberate and decide upon such issues of great importance. She did recognize that the situation in Indian-held Kashmir was totally unacceptable.
In response to the challenge of devising innovative approaches to tackling terrorism and conflict, the Minister said the innovative soft-power approach to conflict and peace would be found in places like NUST as a result of the creativity of powerful young minds.
In response to a question about the role of Pakistan in the war against terrorism, the Minister highly appreciated the spirit of Pakistan in fighting terrorism. She said she thanked Pakistan for the high price in human lives that it had paid. Madam Pinotti further said that Pak-Italian mutual defense cooperation would enhance in the days to come.
Rector NUST, Lt. General (R) Muhammad Asghar, made the closing remarks and stressed the need for harmonious development of inter-state relations. He drew attention towards the transformed nature of security and terrorism and stated that global peace required a mind-set that was irreducibly committed to peace and was courageous enough to venture out for discovering new, creative but sustainable solutions to conflicts of different kinds. He said zero-sum drive for power and extremist religious ideologies were the parents of contemporary global terrorism. He pointed out innovative search for new and lasting solutions to peace was being hampered by a global generation gap. He said social media was a powerful factor of change and agitation, and so it needed to be handled carefully. He said finding the solution to problems of conflict and peace was an urgent global social question that demanded farsighted and comprehensive answers. He concluded it was this quest for global peace that required the broadest possible global cooperation.