Moments after Times of India reported inflammatory statements by Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Saturday, the Pakistan Army spokesperson responded by saying: "We [Pakistan Army] are ready for war but choose to walk the path of peace in the interest of the people of Pakistan, the neighbours and the region".
These remarks were made by Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor while talking to Dunya TV.
According to TOI, the Indian army chief said India "needs to take stern action to avenge the barbarism that the terrorists and Pakistan Army have been carrying out". "Yes, it's time to give it back to them in the same coin, not resorting to similar kind of barbarism. But I think the other side must also feel the same pain," the Indian army chief was quoted as saying.
Gen Rawat's comments came shortly after Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter earlier on Saturday to respond to India's cancellation of the meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), calling New Delhi's reaction "arrogant and negative". "All my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture," added PM Khan.
Responding to Gen Rawat's statements, Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan has a long-standing record of fighting terrorism, adding "we know the price [that is paid] for peace".
"We have struggled to achieve peace in the last two decades. We can never do anything to disgrace any soldier," he asserted, strongly denying the claims made by India that hold the Pakistan Army responsible for the killing of a Border Security Force (BSF) soldier.
“They have in the past as well laid the blame on us for mutilating the body of a fallen soldier. We are a professional army. We never engage in such acts.
"As far as the issuance of postal tickets is concerned, the UN released a human rights violation report following which the then interim government issued those tickets highlighting the plight of Kashmiris.
"To turn this into an excuse that the peace process has been tainted or that Pakistan has somehow changed its stance, is inappropriate," the ISPR chief said.
“There is a freedom struggle going on in the Indian occupied Kashmir, and Burhan Wani onwards, it is completely a political movement,” Ghafoor said, adding that the struggle for independence has become a part of the DNA of Kashmiris and this is now the third generation which is willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause.
“They [India] should come forward for a dialogue. Whenever attempts for dialogue have failed, it is because India has run away from the table.
"The government of Pakistan’s offer still stands for India to come forward and hold talks with us,” the ISPR chief said.
'Indian govt trying to divert public's attention'
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry also promptly issued a response, backing the DG ISPR's statement. "Pakistan and India are nuclear powers; a war is out of question," he said.
The information minister termed the Indian army chief's statement an attempt to divert the attention of Indian public from the mega corruption scandal and the subsequent calls for resignation faced by PM Modi-led BJP government.
Chaudhry said that the Indian army chief's statement was inappropriate and that the general must refrain from using statements as a political tool.
"The Indian army chief needs to understand that he is not a BJP leader," Chaudhry remarked, adding that "the world stands witness to who wants war and who wants peace".
"As a peace-loving nation, Pakistan desires peace [with India]," he stressed, highlighting the fact that peace will be in the benefit of billions across both nations.
He said that Pakistan had reached out in hopes for peace and will continue its efforts to that end.