New York: India is not forthcoming in resuming comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan and such an attitude is impeding prospects of normalisation of bilateral relations, Pakistan’s envoy to the UN has said.
Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told a group of students and faculty members from the US Army War College last week that despite a positive start following the coming to power of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India suspended talks between the two countries on “flimsy grounds and set unacceptable pre-conditions” for their revival.
According to a press release by the Pakistan Mission at the UN, Lodhi said in spite of Pakistan’s call to resume broad-based, comprehensive dialogue, “India was still not forthcoming”.
“This attitude was impeding prospects of normalisation between the two countries,” the release said.
Lodhi said that defeating terrorism, growing the economy and building a peaceful neighbourhood were among Pakistan’s top priorities, including promoting peace and security in Afghanistan and normalising relations with India on the basis of resolution of outstanding disputes.
“These national priorities frame our international diplomacy and our foreign engagements,” she said.
Lodhi further said one of Pakistan’s key priorities was regional connectivity and integration and cited the connectivity project with China linking the two countries through an economic corridor.
“The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that would link Pakistan to Central Asia and the Eurasian landmass will not be confined to China and Pakistan but will be win-win for the entire region,” the release said.
Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said on Thursday that the door was open for negotiations with India, contradicting high commissioner Abdul Basit’s remarks that talks had been suspended.
He also favoured “interaction and engagement” between the neighbours with troubled ties, and said both sides were in “contact with each other”.
“Yes, dialogue is the best option,” Zakaria said at a weekly media briefing in Islamabad, reacting to a question whether negotiations between India and Pakistan were possible.
Foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for the middle of January were derailed after an attack on an Indian Air Force base in Punjab’s Pathankot. The strike blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed killed seven Indian security personnel.
A week ago, Pakistan high commissioner Basit said in New Delhi that no meeting was scheduled for now and the present the peace process had been suspended.
Basit’s remarks came after a Pakistani probe team’s visit to the Pathankot base and the arrest of RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadhav in Balochistan. Basit also said the Pakistani’s team’s visit was not based on reciprocity.
In December, the two countries agreed to start a bilateral dialogue at a meeting between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Sartaj Aziz, the advisor to Pakistan prime minister on foreign affairs.
Ties got a boost when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore on way back to New Delhi from Kabul on Christmas Day on the occasion of Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s birthday.
Zakaria said it was decided during Modi’s visit that foreign secretaries from the two sides should meet soon.
“It is hoped that both sides would work out modalities for the FS-level talks. We need to look ahead and not think in terms foreclosing any options,” he said.
Zakaria also said Pakistan was evaluating the information shared by India on the Pathankot attack.
When asked about Kirpal Singh, an Indian prisoner who died in Pakistan following what authorities claimed was a heart attack, Zakaria said it was “not appropriate to see everything through the prism of suspicion and conspiracy”.
Kirpal, 54, died at a hospital in Pakistan’s Kot Lakhpat Jail on April 11. He was alleged to have been involved in a bombing at Faisalabad Railway Station in 1991, and was sentenced to death for spying and terrorism in Pakistan.