ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Thursday that Pakistan was ready for dialogue with India on terrorism and would like to discuss Indian role in subversive activities in Pakistani territory.

“India wants to speak of terrorism! We also insist on speaking of terrorism … We need to address Indian-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan,” FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria said at the weekly media briefing. He was commenting on the Indian reaction to a statement by US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley in which she had indicated US interest in mediating between India and Pakistan to prevent the tensions between the South Asian rivals from escalating.

The spokesman recalled that Kulbhushan Jadhav’s activities and many other similar instances were irrefutable proof of Indian involvement in Pakistan.

New Delhi had sharply reacted to Amb Haley’s statement, saying dialogue with Pakistan had to be bilateral and could take place in an “environment free of terror and violence”. The strong response from New Delhi forced the State Department to revert to its traditional position that Pakistan and India needed to talk directly to each other.

Kabul’s reservations over border fencing dismissed

“India as usual reacted negatively to the US offer,” the spokesman said, adding that Amb Haley’s remarks showed that the international community was taking note of the deteriorating situation in occupied Kashmir.

Read more: Is a Pakistan-India war just one terrorist attack away?

The spokesman said India would not be allowed to hide behind the bogey of terrorism. India by playing the terrorism mantra, he said, “tries to hide the atrocities in IOK and (is) afraid of being exposed on account of crimes against humanity committed by the Indian occupation forces in IOK”.

Mr Zakaria also welcomed another mediation offer from Iran.

The spokesman dismissed Afghan reservations over fencing of border by Pakistan.

“All the work related to the border management is being done on our side of the border. Border management measures are being undertaken to tackle terrorists coming from across the border as well as to protect Pakistani citizens,” Mr Zakaria said.

The army had recently announced that it had begun partial fencing of the border to prevent unauthorised cross-border movement.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Shakib Mostaghani had warned Pakistan against what he described as “unilateral actions by the Pakistani side along the Durand Line” and hinted at a military response.

A similar feud over construction of a border gate at Torkham last year had led to military exchanges between the two in which both sides suffered casualties.

Afghanistan’s opposition to border management is rooted in its refusal to accept the Durand Line as an international border between the two countries.

Assertion by an Afghan member of parliament last week that the Durand Line should be accepted as border kicked up a political storm in Afghanistan.

Commenting on recent contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the aftermath of the understanding reached in London, Mr Zakaria said the bilateral contacts have been useful. “There is a growing understanding between both the countries to work together to tackle the common threat of terrorism,” he maintained.

The FO continued its defence of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) and Pakistan’s participation in it.

“Pakistan’s endeavour would be that IMAFT serves to bring Muslim countries together in the fight against terrorism. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are brotherly Muslim countries,” the spokesman said in response to a question about the concerns expressed by Iranian envoy about retired Gen Raheel Sharif being allowed to lead it.

“It is focused on combating terrorism by promoting solidarity and cooperation among the Muslim countries. It is neither for, nor against any country. The TORs of IMAFT are yet to be developed,” he added.

In a belated reaction to reports that India could be moving away from its stated policy of No-First Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons towards pre-emptive strikes, the spokesman termed it risky.

“It goes without saying that the talk about pre-emption in a nuclearised South Asia is highly irresponsible and dangerous and will not help the cause of promoting strategic restraint and stability in the region,” he said.

He said it had always been Pakistani position that Indian NFU doctrine was “nothing more than an empty political statement”.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2017