‘Now India should take initiative to revive dialogue’

27 Sep 2014

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.— AFP file photo
.— AFP file photo

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan reminded India on Friday that since it suspended the dialogue, it should take the initiative to revive it.

The message, along with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to raise the Kashmir issue in the UN General Assembly, indicates a realisation in Islamabad that relations with India can only improve if New Delhi also shows a willingness to do so.

“If Indians are interested in a meeting, they should approach us now,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told the Pakistani media at a briefing outside the United Nations.

Last month, India cancelled a scheduled meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two neighbouring states after Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi met Kashmiri leaders ahead of the talks.

Also read: India calls off foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan

Now the Indians say that the talks will only resume if Pakistan agrees not to raise the Kashmir issue at international forums like the UN.

But Prime Minister Sharif rejected the pre-condition and raised the issue in his address to the UN General Assembly, causing a strong reaction in India where both politicians and the media urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “give a befitting reply” to Pakistan.

Mr Sharif nurtures a major desire to improve ties with India, particularly in greater bilateral trade, but officials travelling with him told Pakistani journalists in New York that Pakistan was not willing to “give up its principled stance on Kashmir to please the Indians”.

“The onus is now on India since it cancelled the foreign secretary-level talks,” said Mr Chaudhry while emphasising that Pakistan still desired peaceful relations with India but now was the time for New Delhi to take some reciprocal steps as well.

At a breakfast meeting with Pakistani journalists on Friday, senior Pakistani officials noted “an interesting change in India’s attitude”, as one of them said.

They pointed out that Indian leaders had begun to project their nation as a major world power and instead of engaging Pakistan for resolving disputes; they put out preconditions, even for resuming the dialogue.

Foreign Secretary Chaudhry rejected the suggestion that Pakistan caused the cancellation of last month’s talks by inviting Kashmiri leaders to its mission in New Delhi.

“Pakistan has a longstanding policy to engage Kashmiri leaders as part of its consultations on Kashmir,” he said, adding that this dispute “cannot be wished away”.

Mr Chaudhry, who is part of the prime minister’s delegation to the UN, said Pakistan was not a member of the international coalition the United States was trying to put together to fight the Islamic State group of militants, but strongly supported this fight.

Commenting on media reports that the United States planned to formally ask Pakistan to join the coalition, Mr Chaudhry said, “We will consider it when we receive the invitation.”

The foreign secretary also rejected reports that Pakistani nationals too had joined the IS. “Yes, we have heard that some people who were fighting against Pakistan and its forces in Fata have gone to Syria. But they are not Pakistanis,” he said.

“We are against all militants, no matter what their ethnic origin or nationality,” he said, “no other nation has suffered more than Pakistan and we are involved in this fighting because it is in our interest to do so.”

But he reminded the international community that Pakistan was already engaged in a war against the militants in North Waziristan. “Our hands are full, so we have to think before making new commitments.”

Published in Dawn, September 27th , 2014