ISLAMABAD: The country’s two major opposition parties have held the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government responsible for the latest diplomatic debacle following New Delhi’s refusal to hold a meeting between the two foreign ministers in New York and questioned the “haste being shown by Prime Minister Imran Khan in making efforts to mend fences with India”.

The leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) allege that the government has not done its homework and assessed the situation before approaching India for a meeting, terming the talks offer through a letter written by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Indian counterpart a “misstep”.

PML-N President and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif has called on the international community to take notice of the jingoistic statement of the Indian army chief, while stating that “Pakistan is more than capable of defending and responding to any aggression by New Delhi”.

Shahbaz calls on world community to take notice of Indian army chief’s jingoistic remarks

In a tweet, Mr Sharif wrote, “The bellicose & irresponsible statement by the Indian army chief exposes the Indian designs to the world that should immediately take note of New Delhi’s threatening posture. Pakistan extending an olive branch to India should never be misconstrued as weakness.”

“Pakistan’s unwavering patriotic soldiers stand steadfast to defend with might and fury against unprovoked aggression from any threat. While the nation stands united with their intrepid military and against the cowardly threats,” he added.

Talking to Dawn here on Saturday, former foreign minister and PML-N MNA from Sialkot Khawaja Mohammad Asif said it seemed the government was “not prepared” from day one, adding that “too much keenness being shown by the prime minister” showed “weakness on our part”.

“Giving them (India) too much reflects haste on our part to mend fences with India,” he said, adding that he was not against normalisation of relations between the two neighbouring nuclear states, but “dignity must be maintained”.

Mr Asif regretted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had written the letter in which he “talked about terrorism” without realising that the US and India had recently issued a joint statement after the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to New Delhi and Islamabad which was “dead against” Pakistan.

“They (US and India) raised all kinds of allegations against Pakistan and you are talking about terrorism (in the letter). This is a sign of weakness (on our part),” Mr Asif said, while criticising Mr Khan for stating in the letter that “Pakistan remains ready to discuss terrorism”.

Moreover, he said, Mr Khan had offered “olive branch” to India at a time, when it was committing serious human rights violations in India-held Kashmir.

The senior PML-N leader also criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that “he is playing to the gallery” as part of election campaign in his country. He said the PML-N government had always found India’s attitude “unrealistic and obstructive”.

Similarly, PPP Vice-President and the country’s former ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman said the government should have done its homework before approaching India for a meeting, especially after the initial response.

“Right now, however the Indian Govt and Army chief response is both immature and irresponsible. What are they threatening Pakistan about?” she questioned. “They have crossed all diplomatic norms and protocols to emerge as a belligerent nuclear power that is only looking to externalise its own extremisms,” writes Ms Rehman on her official social media page on Twitter.

“So (the) Modi government suddenly found Pakistan government evil over a stamp issued on 24th July, and a Kashmir killing ruse. Weak diversion from domestic crisis over #Hollande Bombshell and #RafaelDeal; anxiety over earlier UN report and session where Delhi may have to defend Kashmir atrocities,” she writes.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2018