ISLAMABAD: Regretting how the United States downplays India’s aggressive posturing along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary, Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan on Monday called for “ruthlessly candid dialogue” with Washington to remove all types of misconceptions and misunderstandings.

“It’s time for a courteous yet ruthlessly candid dialogue between Pakistan and the US with everything on the table,” the defence minister said while reading out a policy statement on the government’s foreign policy contours and the security situation in the country on the floor of the National Assembly.

The minister’s statement triggered a debate on the foreign policy issues during which the members both from the ruling coalition and the opposition termed it “insufficient” and “confusing statement”. The members were of the view that the foreign policy should originate from parliament and there should be no role of other institutions.

The minister said the perception of India was one of the foundational divergences between Pakistan and the US. He said that Washington had been trying to convince Pakistan that India was not a threat and, therefore, Pakistan should change its strategic stance.

Says Indian govt has reduced space for any advocacy of peace

“But the truism remains true. Both India’s capacity and intents are today hostile towards Pakistan,” he added.

Mr Dastagir alleged that “India has amassed men, material and garrisons along the border with Pakistan”. He said that 2017 was the deadliest year in terms of LoC violations by India and the killings of civilians. “India today is a highly militaralised and an increasingly belligerent neighbour,” he declared.

“The unrelentingly hostile and anti-Pakistan stance taken by the current Indian government has reduced drastically the space for any advocacy of peace,” the minister added.

He said Pakistan was being made a scapegoat as the US was not winning in Afghanistan. He said they had cleared Fata, Karachi and Balochistan as a result of the Operation Zarb-i-Azb and there were no safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan. He urged the US to recognise the sacrifices which Pakistan and its people had given in the war on terror since 2001. He criticised the US for not pursuing internal reconciliation in Afghanistan which had now become a safe haven for terrorists.

Parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party Syed Naveed Qamar welcomed the minister for making a policy statement in the assembly and suggested that Pakistan should have a “stable approach” while dealing with the US, saying that while the US could afford to be irresponsible, Pakistan could not afford it.

Dr Shireen Mazari of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf termed the minister’s statement “confusing”. She said that they should not be aggressive towards the US, but there must be efforts to revive dignity and self-respect of the country. She said that today Pakistan was a need for the US which had stuck in Afghanistan.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman criticised the policies of the recent governments to become a coalition partner of the US in the so-called war on terror.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai warned against the efforts being made by “institutions” to derail the democratic process in the country. He warned that war clouds were hovering over Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2018

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