WEB DESK: Welcoming US Republican presidential candidate Donlad Trump’s offer of mediation between Pakistan and India, the Foreign Office Thursday urged “American friends” especially those in the US administration to play their due role towards resolving bilateral issues particularly the Kashmir dispute between the two neighbours.
Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria, while responding to media queries during his weekly briefing, refrained from commenting on Trump’s interview with an Indian newspaper [Hindustan Times] in which he offered to make peace between Pakistan and India, saying “we don’t comment on media reports from this podium”.
He, however, said that Pakistan continues to urge its American friends, including those in the [US] Administration, to play their due role in resolving bilateral issues between Pakistan and India, particularly the Kashmir dispute. “Pakistan welcomes, as it has welcomed in the past, mediation offer,” he said.
The statement comes amid escalation of tension between the two countries with repeated cease-fire violations at the Line of Control (LoC) by Indian troops which also prompted Pakistan to summon top Indian diplomat to the Foreign Office on Thursday. “The Indian Deputy High Commissioner was called in by the Director General (South Asia & SAARC) and a strong protest was lodged against the unprovoked cease-fire violations on 19-20 October 2016, by the Indian occupation forces at the LoC in Karela Sector, which resulted in the martyrdom of one civilian, Abdul Rehman S/o Gul Zaman, age 28 years,” the Foreign Office said in a separate statement. It stated that 12 civilians including children and women were injured as a result of the Indian fire.
“It was conveyed that the Indian side must investigate the incident and share the findings with Pakistan; India must instruct its troops to respect the Cease-fire, in letter and spirit, refrain from intentionally targeting the villages and maintain peace and stability on the LoC,” the statement added.
It further stated that Pakistan notes with deep concern that during the last couple of months, there have been a number of cease-fire violations from the Indian side on the LoC and the Working Boundary. The spokesperson further told his weekly media briefing that there have been more than 100 cease-fire violations by India in 2016 alone, adding in 2015 as many as 39 people lost their lives and 150 injured due to the Indian aggression.
Asked to comment on the India’s plan to build nine dams in Laddakh region on the Indus River, he said that Pakistan is closely following the developments and will not accept any violation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). “We will take appropriate action in line with the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, in case of any violation of IWT,” he added.
To another query about Pakistani movies being dropped out in an Indian film festival, Zakaria stated that it was an unfortunate attitude. “People to people contacts are important for creating better understanding. The treatment meted out to the artists is disappointing and highly regrettable,” he added.
While there are saner voices in India criticising the Hindutva anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan mentality, he added, there are many who have surrendered to the threats from Hindu extremists and members of Hindu terrorist organisations. About the reported interest shown by various countries like Iran to join CPEC, he said that CPEC projects, when completed, will not only benefit Pakistan and China but will also contribute to the development of the region. It would bring prosperity to the people of four regions – China, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia, he added.
Commenting on the US government’s “do more” mantra, he reiterated that Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism are well acknowledged and there has been acknowledgement by world leaders and countries at various levels of political hierarchy.
He also referred to Chinese President’s recent statement at BRICS summit in which he stated that Pakistan had laid down huge sacrifices and suffered heavy losses in fight against terrorism and that needs to be recognised.
He further said the political leadership of the US have admitted and acknowledged Pakistan’s anti-terror contributions time and again. “As far as we are concerned, we are firm and determined to eradicate the scourge of terrorism from Pakistani soil. Our efforts are paying dividends in the context of regional peace, which also has direct bearing on the economic prosperity of this region”, he added.
Asked whether Pakistan is exploring to create a greater South Asian economic alliance to counter India’s sway over the SAARC, he said that Pakistan deplores the Indian decision to use SAARC for its political ambitions, adding the Indian action was contrary to the purposes and principles of the SAARC Charter.
In the past, he recalled, SAARC Summits have been postponed eight times, five times India was responsible. Squandering the efforts of a 30-year-old socio-economic grouping by India is reflective of the Indian attitude and contribution to the poverty and instability in this poverty stricken region, he added.
However, he added that Pakistan’s geo-strategically advantageous location at the confluence of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia, makes the country a natural economic hub and an energy corridor for the three regions. “Exploiting the economic potential of Pakistan as a facilitator for regional connectivity is high on the present government’s agenda,” he said, adding the CPEC and gas pipeline and energy agreements with the Central Asian States are a practical manifestation of Pakistan’s policy of playing a role of a facilitator towards regional integration.
He stated that Indian attempts to isolate Pakistan have miserably failed. Given Pakistan’s geo-strategically important situation in the region of international interest, he said the very notion of isolating Pakistan is ridiculous. “Indian obsession to malign Pakistan has not been appreciated by the mature countries,” he said.
Besides, he added, India’s negative policies towards Pakistan and regional integration efforts under various regional groupings have exposed India as the biggest hurdle towards the development of the region, which is a hub of world’s largest poor population.
On media reports about Taliban and Afghan government secret talks as well as Taliban’s contacts with Iran, he declined to comment on Taliban’s contact with Iran or any other country. However, he said that it has been Pakistan’s consistent position that politically a negotiated settlement is vital for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan believes that all efforts should be made towards a sustainable peace settlement through an Afghan owned and Afghan led peace process. In our view, QCG is an appropriate forum in which Pakistan is ready to play its role,” he said, adding we will continue with our efforts in facilitating the peace process towards a lasting settlement in collaboration with the Afghan government.