Onus on India to create right environment for engagement: FO

Published February 5, 2021
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri addresses the media at a weekly press briefing. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri addresses the media at a weekly press briefing. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India on Thursday put onus of creating conducive environment for normalisation of relations and meaningful engagement on each other.

Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, at the weekly media briefing, said: “The onus is on India to create enabling environment for meaningful engagement.”

Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava at the media briefing in Delhi said: “The onus is on Pakistan for creating such an environment.”

This comes against the backdrop of comments by Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at a graduation ceremony at PAF Academy in Risalpur earlier in the week.

Gen Bajwa had said: “It is time to extend hand of peace in all directions.” He had further called for resolution of the longstanding dispute of Jammu and Kashmir in “a dignified and peaceful manner” in line with aspirations of the Kashmiri people and to “bring this human tragedy to its logical conclusion”.

The comments are being seen as the latest gesture from Pakistan for easing of tensions in the region. More importantly, the statement had come from the military.

Mr Chaudhri, while responding to a question, said: “Pakistan has always believed in peaceful settlement of all issues, including the core issue of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. It is India that has vitiated the environment with its illegal, inhuman and unilateral actions of 5th August, 2019.”

“Pakistan wants India to rescind the unilateral and illegal annexation of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, cease excessive human rights violations in the held valley, and agree to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.”

India, meanwhile, in an attempt to malign the indigenous uprising in Kashmir, accuses Pakistan of “terrorism”.

The Indian MEA spokesman, while listing demands for normalisation of relations, repeated the usual mantra that Pakistan should ensure “an environment free of terror, hostility and violence” for good neighbourly relations.

Pakistan and India have held no substantive dialogue since 2013 when they resumed engagement after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. However, the process was put on hold because of tensions along the Line of Control. The relations have only deteriorated since then because of absence of any direct or back channel engagement.

In February 2019 Indian Air Force aircraft for the first time intruded into Pakistan’s airspace in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack. Pakistan Air Force later retaliated and in the ensuing battle, shot down two Indian jets. Pilots of one of the downed aircraft was taken into custody. The two countries, days later, stepped back from the brink of war because of intervention of some important countries.

The FO spokesman, in his comments on Gen Bajwa’s statement, said: “It, when compared with remarks by Indian commanders, reflected the difference of approach and mindset.”

He said that unlike Pakistani commanders, who made peace gestures, Indian military officials had been making careers by issuing irresponsible and provocative statements against Pakistan.

“The belligerent rhetoric of the Indian military leadership is an example of RSS-BJP mindset, which has permeated all state institutions of India,” he said. The Indian military’s rhetoric, he said, only imperiled regional peace and security.

“The (Gen Bajwa’s) statement is also a reiteration of the importance of peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

The spokesman also commented on the farmers’ protest in India and said the world was gradually realising what Pakistan had been saying for long that under the RSS-BJP combine India was no more a democracy, but an extremist Hindutva regime.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2021

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