Islamabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi “looks forward” to visit Pakistan in November to attend the Saarc summit, India’s high commissioner in Islamabad said in comments published on Tuesday.
At an event in Karachi on Monday, Gautam Bambawale said while India and Pakistan must certainly discuss the entire range of issues, they must keep also their focus on economy — which he described as a “low-hanging fruit”.
“I can’t say about the future but as of today Prime Minister Modi is looking forward to visiting Islamabad for the Saarc summit in November,” the Dawn quoted Bambawale as saying at an interactive session of the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations.
His comments came amid reports that Modi might keep away from the Saarc summit in view of the rising tensions between India and Pakistan, particularly over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Bambawale said it was India’s desire to see a Pakistan which was moderate, prosperous and stable and at peace with itself, its neighbours as well as the rest of the world.
He admitted that trust and confidence were lacking in relations between New Delhi and Islamabad.
The road to normalisation of Pakistan-India relations, he said, lay through greater trade and business, the roadmap for which was prepared by the two governments in 2012.
The total trade between the two countries was worth just $2.5 billion a year while its potential was of $20 billion, the Dawn quoted him as saying.
The Indian diplomat said that even when tensions were high between the two countries, there had been contacts at the operational level.
Over the past month and a half, there had been “cordial interactions” between Pakistani and Indian border forces.
Bambawale referred to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s and Modi’s visits to Islamabad and Lahore in December last year.
After Bambawale’s remarks were reported by the Indian media, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup clarified that “decisions and announcements of such nature are not made so far in advance”.
But on January 2 this year, terrorists — who India says came from Pakistan — attacked the Pathankot Indian Air Force base.
He said the Indian government had been saying: “Let’s work together to get to the bottom of terrorism which was a headache not only for Pakistan but for India and the world.”
In an obvious reference to the Kashmir dispute, Bambawale said the two countries should not be talking on just one issue, rather on all issues.
He said India had taken a stand in the 1960s and 70s that New Delhi and Beijing must talk on the boundary problem before moving on to other issues. But this was reversed in 1988.
Today China was one of India’s largest trading partners, he pointed out.
Asked about “Indian atrocities” in Jammu and Kashmir, the high commissioner said Indians were as concerned about the people of Kashmir as anyone else in the world.
But the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was domestic and “you should focus on your problems”, he added.
Bambawale said the problem with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was that it went through Pakistani Kashmir whose ownership is disputed by Islamabad and New Delhi.
He also mentioned how Pakistan had refused consular access to alleged RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested in Pakistan, while India gave consular access to a Pakistani terrorist, Bahadur Ali.
“We have offered Pakistani authorities full consular access to him,” he said in reply to a question about Indian involvement in Balochistan.