ISLAMABAD: The European Union (EU) wants open and constructive dialogue between Pakistan and India for resolution of their bilateral disputes.
“The European Union, as global network, would not only work to make dialogue between India and Pakistan possible, but also make it as open and constructive as possible,” said Romania’s Ambassador Nicolae Goia, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.
He was speaking at a round-table discussion on “Romanian Presidency and Prospects for EU-Pakistan Cooperation” at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI).
He emphasised that the EU saw resumption of talks between India and Pakistan as the way forward.
Ambassador Goia appreciated Pakistan’s stance on resumption of talks with India and the steps taken by the government of Pakistan for reducing tensions in the aftermath of recent incidents involving the use of air force by both countries and increased exchanges along the Line of Control.
Pakistan’s high commissioner calls on prime minister ahead of resumption of his duties in India
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini had spoken to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi by phone after tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries spiked in the aftermath of the Pulwama incident. The Feb 14 suicide attack at Pulwama in India-held Kashmir left over 40 paramilitaries dead.
The EU high representative had on that occasion asked for urgent de-escalation of the situation. A similar message was also conveyed to India on that occasion.
Ambassador Goia said the European Union was close to finalising the ‘Strategic Engagement Plan’ with Pakistan, which would provide a framework for development of broad-based partnership in addition to enhanced economic cooperation in coming years.
“We are working on a strategic engagement plan, which is in the last phases of being finalised. It would perhaps be done in the next few weeks or possibly a month. Once the plan is put into place, it will take Pak-EU relations to the next level,” Ambassador Goia said.
“We are on the right track for developing this relationship,” he further said.
The EU is one of Pakistan’s largest trading partners and the biggest market for Pakistani exports. Moreover, the EU and Pakistan enjoy good political and security ties, which were governed by an earlier five-year engagement plan. The two sides have been working on adoption of the forthcoming EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan.
Speaking on the occasion, President of Strategic Vision Institute Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that Pakistan and the European Union had historically good political relations and it was time to translate those relations into stronger economic and trade cooperation.
In another development, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood met Prime Minister Imran Khan to seek his directives regarding relations with India before returning to New Delhi.
The government had earlier this week in continuation of peace overtures to India after a recent spike in tensions decided to send back High Commissioner Mahmood in addition to recommitting itself to the talks for concluding Kartarpur Corridor agreement and the weekly hotline contact between military operations directorates of the two countries.
“The two reviewed the latest situation in crisis with India,” an official said after the meeting.
HC Mahmood had on Thursday also met Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
In his conversation with the ambassador, Mr Qureshi had emphasised direct contacts with India, adding that better relations between India and Pakistan would ensure regional peace and stability.
The government had called back Sohail Mahmood on Feb 18 ‘for consultations’ when tensions started growing after the Feb 14 Pulwama attack. India too had called back its High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria immediately after the incident.
Although the situation has significantly de-escalated as compared to events of the last week, India has so far not decided when to send back Mr Bisaria or taken any reciprocal conciliatory measure to reduce tensions.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2019