Pakistan not desperate for talks with India, says Abdul Basit

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NEW DELHI:Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit has categorically stated that Pakistan was not desperate for talks with India.

Referring to heightened tensions between Pakistan and India, Basit told The Hindu, “I think we need to work on how to break the impasse between us…Pakistan is not begging for dialogue. If India is not ready, we can always wait.”

“We will continue to work to break the impasse, but we are very clear that dialogue is the only way our countries can move forward and they cannot live in a state of perpetual hostility. Talking to each other is inevitable. Whether it happens 1 year down the road or 3 years down the road,” he said.

Despite Pakistan’s efforts to reach out to India even as tensions flare between the two rivals along the Line of Control, New Delhi once again shot down any chance for dialogue as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s foreign affairs adviser heads to Amritsar for a key regional summit.

Speaking at his weekly news briefing on Thursday, India’s External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Vikas Swarup categorically ruled out any possibility of talks between Indian officials and Sartaj Aziz at the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference, due to take place on December 3 and 4.

Referring to the possibility of talks in future, Basit said, “Pakistan has made many diplomatic initiatives but unfortunately things always come back to square one and we have to start afresh.”

“We have expressed our readiness to consider any proposal for talks from the Indian side,” he stated, adding that the focus should remain on Afghanistan at the conference.

He reiterated that though it was a challenge for both countries to move forward, Islamabad had a “strong desire to move forward.”

“We have the patience to wait. If they don’t break the ice in Amritsar perhaps we will find another opportunity somewhere later,” Basit said.

On being asked if Pakistan was worried about being cornered by Afghanistan and India at the conference as both countries held “Pakistan responsible for cross border terrorism they face,” Basit stated that Pakistan had nothing to worry about as terrorism was an important issue for the country too.

“There is zero tolerance for terrorism in Pakistan,” he said, recalling action Pakistan had taken against banned outfits including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad in the past.

Delving into the ongoing tensions along the LoC, Basit said, “The problem with LoC firing is you blame us, and we blame you.”

“The first thing is the firing must end immediately, and then the next step has to be bilateral engagement. That is unavoidable. You can’t agree on anything unless you talk with each other. I can’t say more, because I don’t know what India wants to do,” he said.

Further, on being asked to comment on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement regarding the Indus Waters Treaty, the diplomat stated that the treaty was permanent and could not be unilaterally changed or abandoned

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