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PM makes peace overtures to neighbours

Updated April 12, 2017


Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaking at the Graduation Ceremony held at PAF Academy Asghar Khan in Risalpur on April 11. ─ PPI
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaking at the Graduation Ceremony held at PAF Academy Asghar Khan in Risalpur on April 11. ─ PPI

ISLAMABAD/NOWSHERA: Amid the prevailing tensions following the disappearance of a former Pakistani military officer in Nepal and the subsequent death sentence awarded to Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday appeared to strike a reconciliatory tone on relations with neighbouring countries, including India.

Addressing the passing-out parade at the Asghar Khan PAF Academy in Risalpur, the prime minister noted that Pakistan was a peace-loving country and wanted friendly relations with its neighbours.

“Cooperation rather than conflict and shared prosperity instead of suspicion are the hallmark[s] of our policy,” he remarked. However, he warned that the country’s desire for peaceful coexistence should not be mistaken for weakness.

The PM’s remarks, tantamount to offering friendship and asking “neighbours” — believed to be a veiled reference to India — to shun mistrust, appear particularly poignant in the midst of the frenzy following Jadhav’s sentencing to death by a military tribunal.

“Pakistan, for its part, will never hesitate to extend the hand of friendship to all and shall never waver from returning goodwill with even more goodwill,” Mr Sharif said.

The prime minister gave a similar impression in an interview to state-run APP, where he expressed the hope that the Trump administration would help resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Sharif hopes Trump administration will help resolve Kashmir dispute

“We wish to see progress towards the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, which is the biggest hurdle in the way of peace and development in the region and the whole world, including the US, is fully aware of this reality,” APP quoted the PM as saying.

Fraught relations between Pakistan and India took a further plunge last year following an uprising in India-held Kahsmir. The death sentence awarded to Jadhav, it is feared, could add to the acrimony between the two states.

There has, however, been speculation that the two sides may amicably settle the row over Jadhav’s capture and subsequent court-martial and the PM’s remarks only lend credence to such conjecture.

Opposition politicians have repeatedly called for the prime minister to speak on the Jadhav issue and raise it internationally as proof of Indian involvement in terrorism inside Pakistan.

On March 3 this year, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan had even joked about donating Rs50,000 to charity if the PM decided to speak on the matter, a challenge Sartaj Aziz had happily accepted at the time.

But PM’s spokesman Mussadiq Malik rejected criticism that the premier had been quiet on the Jadhav issue and was making peace overtures to India.

“Do you think prime ministers should dignify every [spy] who has been caught by naming him? Is that the idea? The prime minister has been very upfront and our view is very clear,” Mr Malik told Dawn, dismissing criticism by opposition parties as a product of “polarised politics”.

“The prime ministers only give policy statements, which the PM (Sharif) has given very clearly that we will like to improve relationships with all neighbours … and we have very clearly said that no act of terrorism in Pakistan would be tolerated,” the spokesman said.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2017