Alarming surge in unwarranted claims by Indian leaders over Azad Kashmir: FO

Published April 26, 2024
FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch addresses a weekly press briefing in Islamabad on Friday. — FO
FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch addresses a weekly press briefing in Islamabad on Friday. — FO

The Foreign Office (FO) on Friday said that there had been an “alarming surge in provocative statements from Indian leaders asserting unwarranted claims over Azad Jammu and Kashmir”, adding that Pakistan rejected such claims.

The remarks by the FO spokesperson did not mention any specific statement by an Indian leader.

However, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said that the “people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will demand to be with India” due to the development taking place in the neighbouring country, according to NDTV.

Earlier this month, India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stated that India “would never accept that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is not part of India”, The Economic Times reported.

The development also comes after Iran and Pakistan, in a joint statement, highlighted the need to resolve the long-standing issue through “dialogue and peaceful means based on the will of the people of that region and in accordance with international law”. In response, India said it had taken up the matter with Iranian authorities, according to The Print.

It should be mentioned that India is currently in the process of conducting a mammoth election, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely expected to win a third term.

Addressing a weekly press briefing in Islamabad today, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said, “We are witnessing an alarming surge in provocative statements from Indian leaders asserting unwarranted claims on AJK. Pakistan rejects these claims.

“Fuelled by hyper-nationalism, this inflammatory rhetoric poses a grave threat to regional peace and susceptibility,” she added, urging “Indian politicians to cease their reckless practice of dragging Pakistan into India’s populist public discourse for electoral motives”.

“Historical and legal facts as well as ground realities refute India’s baseless claims over AJK. Despite India’s rhetoric and assertions, Jammu and Kashmir remains an internationally recognised disputed territory,” the spokesperson asserted.

Zahra noted that the UN Security Council resolutions on the region “clearly outline that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined by the will of the people through a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices”.

“India would be wise to help implement these resolutions instead of harbouring delusions of grandeur,” the FO spokesperson stressed.

‘Engaged’ with US on energy requirements

The FO spokesperson also said that Pakistan was engaged with the United States regarding its energy requirements.

When asked about the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project and the US’ concerns about it.

Zahra said the project was discussed during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s official visit to Pakistan, highlighting that the country had significant energy needs and was exploring options for its import.

The spokesperson added that Pakistan had noted the statements from US authorities about Pakistan-Iran trade and was engaged with the US and discussed all aspects of the country’s energy needs.

When asked about the FO’s response to US threats of imposing sanctions, Zahra said, “First of all, I should underline that Pakistan does not believe in zero-sum relationships. Expansion of our relations with one country should not be considered as coming at the expense of our relationship with another.

“Pakistan is confident that its relationship with its friends and partners, including the United States, are robust enough to move forward on their own merit, and notwithstanding any other relationships that Pakistan has with other countries in our national interest.”

The spokesperson highlighted that Pakistan and the US had a “robust dialogue and several channels of communication”.

Zahra said Pakistan would continue to “engage with them and explain the importance that Pakistan accords to its relations with its neighbours and the need for this cooperation to have the Pakistan-Iran border, as a border of peace, security and prosperity”.

Gaza mass graves ‘shock human conscience’

On the ongoing Israeli onslaught in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,300 Palestinians and brought them to the brink of famine, Zahra said Pakistan “vehemently condemns Israel’s barbarianism and its war crimes against the people of Gaza”.

The spokesperson said the discovery of mass graves at two major hospitals in Gaza has “shocked the human conscience”.

“Pakistan joins the call by the United Nations for a clear, transparent and credible investigation of mass graves and the massacre of men, women and children by the Israeli occupation forces,” she added.

The spokesperson stressed the “urgency of an unconditional ceasefire to protect civilians from further carnage” as well as an independent and impartial investigation to “ascertain the facts, fix responsibility and punish the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza”.

“We urge the international community, especially the backers of Israel, to take urgent measures to bring an end to the war on the people of Gaza, to lift the siege, to protect civilians, facilitate humanitarian assistance and to hold to account the perpetrators of the Gaza genocide,” Zahra said.

PM, FM Dar to attend WEF

Separately, PM Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar will attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy in Riyadh from April 28-29, the FO spokesperson said.

Zahra said that the premier and the foreign minister had received invitations from Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman and WEF Founder and Chief Executive Professor Klaus Schwab.

“High-level participation in the forum will afford an important opportunity to present Pakistan’s priorities, specifically in global health architecture, inclusive growth, revitalising regional collaboration and the need for striking a balance between promoting growth and energy consumption,” she emphasised.

The spokesperson highlighted that PM Shehbaz and FM Dar would also hold bilateral meetings with world leaders, heads of international bodies and other leading personalities on the margins of the event.

Recalling Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s three-day official visit to Pakistan earlier this week, Zahra highlighted that it was the first visit by an Iranian leader in seven years.

Reiterating the steps for economic and regional cooperation agreed upon by Iran and Pakistan, she said that the leaders of the two countries “highlighted the need for dialogue and peaceful means to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with international law and the will of the people”.

Further, the prime minister would also participate in the 15th Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit being held in Banjul, Gambia on May 4-5 May.

Zahra highlighted that the summit was being convened at a “critical time for the Muslim ummah as the war on the people of Gaza continues unabated”.

She added that the summit would be an important occasion for the OIC leaders to deliberate upon the “deteriorating situation in Gaza and project a strong, collective and unified stance on the Palestinian question”.

According to the spokesperson, at the summit, PM Shehbaz would speak about Pakistan’s “grave concern on the genocide in Gaza and the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir” as well as rising Islamophobia and terrorism, among other global issues.

The prime minister would also hold bilateral meetings with leaders of the Islamic world on the sidelines of the OIC summit.

Meanwhile, FM Dar would attend the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting on May 2-3 and meet his counterparts from other member countries on the CFM’s sidelines.

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