ISLAMABAD: The Fore­ign Office rejected on Thursday the notion that the peace process between Pakistan and India was suspended, saying it remained engaged with Delhi.

“We need to look ahead and not think in terms of foreclosing any options. Both sides are in contact with each other,” FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria said at the weekly media briefing.

The spokesman was referring to media reports quoting Pakistan’s High Commis­sioner in India Abdul Basit as having said that the peace process was “suspended”.

“Dialogue is the best option. Diplomacy is for interaction and engagement between countries,” Mr Zakaria maintained.

Last December, the two countries had agreed to restart the peace dialogue, which was named Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. It was agreed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise stopover in Lahore on Christmas Day that the foreign secretaries would meet to decide the schedule and other details of the first round of talks.

However, the plan for re-engagement after a hiatus of two years was upset by the Pathankot attack and the two countries have not been able to schedule the foreign secretaries’ meeting since. Mr Zakaria said the meeting would take place once the “modalities” have been settled.

KASHMIR: The spokesman expressed “deep concern” over the Indian security forces’ crackdown on protesters in Handwara in India-held Kashmir which has resulted in four casualties. The protests broke out in the occupied Kashmiri town, following reports that an Indian soldier had molested a local girl. Three people were killed when security forces opened fire at the protesters, while a fourth died after being hit in the head by a teargas shell.

“We urge the international community to take steps to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions that call for the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination through a UN-supervised plebiscite,” he said.

QCG: The next meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US, would take place soon, said the spokesman. The four-nation group is working for reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The group is struggling to convene its next meeting due to the widening mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the aftermath of the failure to hold talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. At its last meeting, the QCG had resolved to initiate “direct talks” between the Afghan government and Taliban in the first week of March.

Mr Zakaria said all members of the QCG remained committed to the success of the peace process.

TRAVEL ADVISORY: In a rare travel advisory issued at the media briefing, the FO urged Pakistanis to avoid travelling to Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen due to the security situation in those countries.

“Due to the ongoing conflict and uncertain security situation that could pose serious risks to foreigners in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Pakistani nationals are advised to refrain from unnecessary travel to these countries,” the spokesman said.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2016