ISLAMABAD: Responding to Pakistan’s diplomatic outreach to various world capitals on the latest developments in India-held Kashmir, the foreign ministers of the two main Muslim countries — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — are arriving in Islamabad on Wednesday (today) on a one-day official visit to hold talks with the Pakistani civil and military leadership on the regional situation.
This was stated by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi while talking to reporters at the Parliament House before heading to the Foreign Office to preside over the inaugural meeting of the special Kashmir Cell here on Tuesday.
“The two principal players of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) are coming (to Islamabad) tomorrow (Wednesday). One chairs summit level (meetings) and the other heads ministerial segment,” Mr Qureshi said while referring to the upcoming visits of Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan.
“We contacted the two foreign ministers and they are coming,” he said, adding that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE were important countries. He said that he would present before them the viewpoint of Pakistan and of the people of Kashmir on the latest Indian move of ending the special status of Kashmir through revocation of Article 370 and the situation in the held valley due to continued curfew.
Qureshi speaks to foreign ministers of Iran, Bangladesh and Turkey over Kashmir issue
The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are visiting Pakistan as a result of direct telephone calls by Prime Minister Imran Khan to the crown princes of the two countries in the past few days. Mr Qureshi said the prime minister had had “good interaction” with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Earlier, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) had reported that Prime Minister Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman discussed the “latest developments in the region” in a phone call. The SPA reported that the two leaders during the telephone call, second one in less than a month, also “reviewed the relations between the two countries”.
In his media talk, Mr Qureshi ruled out any possibility of resumption of bilateral talks between Pakistan and India in the prevailing situation. He said they had categorically stated in the past that if India took one step towards peace, Pakistan would take two steps. However, he regretted that India kept on avoiding talks.
The foreign minister expressed his concerns over the continuous curfew in India-held Kashmir, saying that New Delhi had created a “human crisis”. He said the people of Kashmir had been under curfew for 30 days without ration and medicines.
“There is a panic and chaotic situation in Kashmir,” Mr Qureshi said, adding that they had been mobilising public opinion and putting pressure on India through diplomatic efforts for lifting of curfew in Kashmir.
Responding to a question about the response of the international community towards Pakistan’s efforts to highlight Kashmir, Mr Qureshi said he did not have “an electric switch” and that they had done what was “humanly possible” to mobilise public opinion and internationalise the Kashmir situation.
Claiming successes on the diplomatic front, he said the OIC had already rejected Indian stance and called for lifting of curfew in Kashmir. He said the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the European Union (EU) had already discussed the Kashmir issue and now they were approaching the Human Rights Council and had been in contact with the OIC.
Mr Qureshi stated that several US senators and Congressmen for the first time had decided to take up the Kashmir issue in the Human Rights Committee. He said out of 12 EU members, 11 had condemned India, adding that only one EU member of Indian origin had supported the Indian actions in Kashmir.
He said that thousands of Pakistanis, Kashmiris, human rights activists and the democratic members of Labour and Conservative parties had staged a big demonstration in London. He said international western media was criticising Indian policy and now there were voices from within India over the situation.
He said that he had talked to his counterparts in Iran and Bangladesh on Tuesday and they had also expressed their concerns over the Kashmir situation. He said though Bangladesh had a soft corner for India, its foreign minister had also declared that “a continuous curfew is unacceptable”.
Mr Qureshi said that he had also discussed with the Bangladeshi foreign minister the Indian move of carrying out ethnic cleansing in Assam by making some two million people stateless. He said India also intended to carry out ethnic cleansing in Kashmir, but the people of Kashmir would resist such a move there.
Responding to another question, the foreign minister said there had been no decision yet on closing the air space for India.
“We are reviewing all pros and cons of this option and we will decide about it at the time of our choosing,” he added.
Replying to another question, Mr Qureshi said that they were weighing the option of taking the matter to the International Court of Justice and Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem was studying the case.
Mr Qureshi, who is also the vice-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), criticised the opposition parties for not observing the “Kashmir Hour” on the call of the prime minister last Friday. He, however, said that all the political parties were on one page on the Kashmir issue.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office issued separate handouts regarding the telephonic conversations of the foreign minister with his counterparts in Iran, Bangladesh and Turkey.
Mr Qureshi called Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran Javad Zarif and briefed him on the illegal and unilateral actions of India to alter the disputed status of Kashmir. He underlined that the steps taken by India in held Kashmir posed threats to peace and stability in the region.
On the worsening situation of human rights, the foreign minister informed his Iranian counterpart that the complete lockdown in the Valley had entered fifth week causing immense suffering to the Kashmiri people who were unable to access hospitals, medicines and food supplies.
Mr Zarif appreciated the detailed briefing and reiterated concern over the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in India-held Kashmir and reaffirmed Iran’s support for the Kashmiri people.
Mr Qureshi also talked to Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dr A.K.Abdul Momen and Turkish FM Mevlut Cavasoglu.
Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2019