India has sent feelers for talks: Pakistan

Updated 14 Oct 2020

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Screengrab shows SAPM on National Security Moeed Yusuf in a virtual interview with Indian journalist Karan Thapar. — Courtesy YouTube
Screengrab shows SAPM on National Security Moeed Yusuf in a virtual interview with Indian journalist Karan Thapar. — Courtesy YouTube

• In an interview with Karan Thapar, PM’s aide says prime minister and army chief desire peace with India
• Islamabad wants dialogue on both Kashmir and terrorism

NEW DELHI: India has sent messages to Pakistan over the past year expressing a desire for conversation, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser on national security and strategic policy planning Moeed Yusuf told The Wire in a TV interview with the Indian news portal on Tuesday. However, Pakistan would like to assess India’s intent, lest it uses a future dialogue to tell the world that all is well between the two and, implicitly, with Kashmir.

“In the past year we have got messages for a desire to conversation,” Mr Yusuf said. “But why is there a desire, in my reading? To talk, to get somewhere”.

He said Pakistan would not want India to use it merely to say to the world that all’s settled and everything is agreed. “There has to be an enabling environment to talk.”

Mr Yusuf urged India to reverse its recent unilateral measures in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. “Not for my sake but for your own reason, reverse the military siege in Kashmir. Pull back from the domicile laws. And I say for your own sake, end the open jail. India will have to reverse this, as Kashmir implodes. It’s better, however, do it in ways more sensible,” Mr Yusuf said, adding that nobody in Pakistan wants to impose a war.

Mr Yusuf was speaking to Karan Thapar in a rare cross-border interview, the first since India’s moves in August last year to annul Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. He didn’t say who had sent the message to who and through who.

However, he insisted that Kashmiris must be a third party at these talks — usually a non-starter for the Indian side. He also made it clear that Pakistan is willing to discuss terror, an offer agreed between former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former president Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad in 2004. Pakistan, however, now sees the discussion on terror from its own prism, accusing India of fomenting terror in Pakistan.

Mr Thapar described the wide ranging interview as quarrelsome and aggressive and even, at times, no holds barred. Mr Yusuf thought it was a candid discussion.

However, looking to the future ties with India, Mr Yusuf said: “We must sit down like adults.”

He said there are two issues, Kashmir and terror, and added that “I want to talk about both”. He said Pakistan “stands for peace and we want to move forward”. He said Pakistan’s prime minister and its army chief desired peace with India, and singled out aggressive statements from Indian counterparts as foiling the quest.

“Pakistan is the melting of all economic interests. It’s not up for choosing sides. Much has been made of CPEC and China. But if the US wants to invest, they’re welcome. If the UK wants to invest, they’re welcome too.”

He said Pakistan is looking for peace in the region. “We want peace in Afghanistan for connectivity with Central Asia. Connectivity with China adds 60 billion to our economy, a huge source of employment,” Mr Yusuf said, adding that in the east-west trajectory, India was an obstacle.

“We need to think strategically. We need to sit down like adults. There are two issues, and we both know that— Kashmir and terrorism. I want to talk about both,” he added.

Mr Thapar asked Mr Yusuf how could there be talks between the two premiers as Prime Minister Khan called his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi a Nazi dictator.

Mr Yusuf said the talks are held between states.

Speaking about the Mumbai 2008 terror attack and Pakistan’s failure to bring the accused to justice, Mr Yusuf squarely blamed India. He said India is “deliberately delaying sending evidence and witnesses” because it wants to keep the issue alive and use it to run down Pakistan in front of the world.

Mr Yusuf accused India of inflicting terror on Pakistan. First, he claimed that in 2019, the Indian embassy in Kabul had given $1 million to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan to help the TTP merge with four militant groups.

He also claimed that the handler of the 2014 terrorist attack on an army school in Peshawar was in touch with “an Indian consulate” (but he did not say which). He said Pakistan has the phone number of the handler’s contact. “We have evidence,” he added.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2020