'Give peace a chance': Prime Minister Khan responds to Modi

Published February 24, 2019
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Pakistan PM Imran Khan. — AFP/File
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Pakistan PM Imran Khan. — AFP/File

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday responded to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comments given a day earlier and assured him that he stands by his words that if India provides Pakistan with "actionable intelligence" regarding the February 14 attack in occupied Kashmir's Pulwama, "we will immediately act”.

On Saturday, Modi had asked Prime Minister Khan to keep his word as a Pathan and fight poverty and illiteracy together with India instead of fighting each other.

Khan today sought to reiterate Pakistan's desire to see stability in the region, saying Modi should "give peace a chance", according to a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office.

“In my meeting with PM Modi in December 2015, we had agreed that since poverty alleviation is a priority for our region, we would not allow any terrorist incident to derail peace efforts, however long before Pulwama, these efforts were derailed in September 2018," the premier said, in a reference to India's cancellation of a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last year.

"Sadly, now peace remains elusive due to elections in India,” Khan regretted.

The exchange of remarks between Khan and his Indian counterpart comes amidst heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following the attack on Indian security forces in Pulwama.

At least 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed on February 14 when a suicide bomber drove an explosive-laden car into their convoy. According to media reports, Jaish-e-Muhammad claimed responsibility for the attack but New Delhi immediately blamed Islamabad and threatened a retaliatory attack. It also announced that it would launch a diplomatic offensive to isolate Pakistan in the international community. Moreover, India scrapped the Most Favoured Nation status granted to Pakistan and imposed a 200 per cent customs duty on its goods.

In response to India's allegations, Prime Minister Khan promised to conduct an investigation if New Delhi provided “actionable evidence” but also warned that Pakistan will "retaliate" if attacked. On Friday, the Pakistan Army also warned India to avoid "any misadventure", as it could have dangerous consequences.

Pakistan condemns attempts to repeal Article 35-A

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Foreign Office expressed concerns over the expected hearing of petitions in the Supreme Court of India calling for the scrapping of Article 35-A of the Indian constitution.

"Pakistan condemns any such attempts as these are clearly aimed at bringing about demographic changes in the Indian-occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IoK)," read the statement.

The handout added that "any move in this direction would be a blatant violation of international law and the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, which prohibit introducing material changes to the disputed territory".

The FO in its statement also expressed grave concern at the evolving situation in IoK.

It noted that following retaliatory attacks against Kashmiris in IoK and several parts of India after the Pulawama attack, the Indian government has demonstrated further heavy-handedness with "enhanced use of force, large-scale arrests, and incarceration of senior Kashmiri leaders".

"The large-scale deployment of additional paramilitary forces, and orders by the local administration to hospitals and about sale of fuel and food grains, are contributing to an atmosphere of extreme intimidation and fear. Immediate steps are required to reverse this frenzy and restore calm," the statement warned.

The FO further called upon the international community to "take cognisance of the situation and counsel India to refrain from further escalation, defuse current tensions and resolve issues through dialogue and engagement".

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