ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that India would have to make the first move to normalise ties with Pakistan.
“We are trying, but India would have to take the first step and unless it does that we cannot move ahead,” Mr Khan said while inaugurating the first edition of the two-day Islamabad Security Dialogue hosted by the National Security Division in collaboration with government-funded think tanks.
The prime minister, however, did not elaborate what he expected India to do as the first step to resumption of ties.
The perpetually tense relations between the two countries, which have fought three wars, besides engaging in several episodes of limited conflict, to quote the words of PM Khan, suffered a “breakdown” after India forcibly and illegally annexed Occupied Jammu and Kashmir on Aug 5, 2019.
However, the two countries sprung a surprise last month by announcing resumption of ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC) after a ‘hotline contact’ between the director generals of military operations of the two countries. Many believe that agreement was made possible through a backchannel, although Pakistani officials strongly deny it.
Imran says Kashmir issue is lone irritant between two countries
No violation has since then been reported at LoC and importantly there has been visible reduction in rhetoric from both sides. Prime Minister Khan’s speech at Islamabad Dialogue too was without the usual criticism of the Indian government, whom he had in the past likened to Nazis of Germany, and its actions, especially in Kashmir.
In an apparent explanation of the change in the tone, the prime minister said Pakistan could not fully exploit its geo-economic potential unless it improved its ties with neighbours by strengthening trading connection and establishing peace in the region.
Mr Khan said Kashmir issue was the lone irritant standing in the way of better ties between Pakistan and India.
“We have to see how we can resolve it through dialogue and establish relations like civilised neighbours,” the prime minister further said.
Peace, he said, would benefit both countries. “If poverty has to be eradicated, our trading and economic ties should be strong in addition to greater connectivity,” he maintained.
India, Mr Khan said, could access resource-rich Central Asia if there was peace.
He also touched upon efforts for peace in Afghanistan and said that there was a hope for political settlement of the protracted conflict after a very long time. He at the same time noted that there were still enormous challenges in the way of peace in Afghanistan. “No one should underestimate how difficult it is. There are still many challenges,” he maintained.
Pakistan is participating in a meeting of the ‘expanded troika’ on Afghan peace being held on Thursday in Moscow. Meanwhile, the US is preparing for setting up a regional compact on Afghanistan, whose meeting is likely to be held next month.
The peace talks between Taliban and Afghan government currently underway in Doha are stalemated and much of the diplomatic effort is currently focused on accelerating the process and achieving some sort of understanding before the May 1 deadline for troops withdrawal in US-Taliban agreement signed in Feb 2020.
The prime minister also called for a comprehensive and expanded view of national security in the light of emerging non-traditional threats like climate change, food security, and economic security.
Mr Khan, on this occasion, also launched a Policy Advisory Portal, which has been developed by the National Security Division to engage over 100 think tanks and academia over policy making.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2021