Ready To ‘Bury Hatchet’ With India For Peace: Pakistan

 Charges D'Affaires of Pakistan High Commission in India Aftab Hasan Khan

New Delhi: On the occasion of Pakistan Day, Islamabad expressed its desire for good neighbourly relations and said it wanted to settle all disputes, including Kashmir, through dialogues.

“I would like to emphasise that peace and stability in this region are essential for the development of all the countries. Pakistan would like to have good neighbourly relations with all its neighbours especially India for durable peace and stability,” acting Pakistan High Commissioner in India Aftab Hasan Khan said while speaking during an event organised the mark Pakistan Day.

“It is essential that we solve all bilateral issues with negotiations through dialogues especially the issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” Khan told ANI news agency.

It is important that New Delhi and Islamabad work towards eliminating poverty and illiteracy, he said. “It would only be possible if there is peace. For peace to prevail, issues must be resolved through dialogue.”

Khan’s remarks come days before Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will attend Heart of Asia — a meeting that among others would be attended by India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar — in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The meeting provides a platform for regional cooperation with Kabul at its centre and with the recognition by the participants that a secure and stable Afghanistan is vital to the prosperity of the region.

The statement coincides with India and Pakistan holding in three years the first meeting of a commission that deals with water rights on the Indus River on Tuesday, illustrating a broader resumption of diplomatic ties.

The Permanent Indus Commission, set up under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, is set to meet in New Delhi on March 23 (today) to 24, said two Indian officials that deal in bilateral water issues.

At the talks, Pakistan will raise its objections to the technical designs of India’s Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydroelectric plants.

The talks represent a thawing in bilateral ties, which have been frozen since a 2019 suicide bombing in Kashmir blamed on Pakistan and India’s decision later that year to strip the disputed region’s autonomous status in order to bind it closer to India.

But over the past few weeks, the two governments have made tentative efforts to re-engage and calm the borders as they struggle to extricate their countries from the worst economic downturn ever amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

About a month after the armies of Pakistan and India agreed to observe a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC), Bloomberg revealed the months-long talks that preceded the landmark announcement were brokered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The cease-fire, the report which cited sources said, is only the beginning of a larger roadmap to forge a lasting peace between the arch-rival neighbours.

The next step in the process involves both sides reinstating high commissioners in New Delhi and Islamabad, who were pulled in August 2019 after Pakistan protested India’s move to revoke the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir.

The reinstatement of the envoys will be followed by the hard part: Talks on resuming trade and a lasting resolution on Kashmir.

Last Thursday, addressing a gathering of scholars and experts discussing national security at the Islamabad Security Dialogue, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in a rare conciliatory call, urged for a peaceful resolution in Kashmir and for peace talks with India.

He had also called for burying the past and moving forward, saying that Kashmir holds the key to peace in all of South Asia, a region that is home to a quarter of the world’s population.

“It is important to understand that without the resolution of the Kashmir dispute through peaceful means, the process of sub-continental rapprochement will always remain susceptible to a derailment,” the army chief had observed.

Qureshi, Jaishankar Likely To Meet In Tajikistan

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will travel to Tajikistan later in the month to participate in the Heart of Asia' conference, which is expected to be attended by his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, sparking speculation of a possible meeting between the two amidst peace overtures from the Pakistani Army, according to a media report here.

However, there was no official confirmation from New Delhi on whether Jaishankar will travel to Tajikistan for the conference or about the possible meeting with his Pakistani counterpart.

The Ninth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process is scheduled to take place on the 30th of March 2021 in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.

Dawn newspaper reported that the participation of Jaishankar and Qureshi in the March 30th event, in the backdrop of the recent developments, has led to speculation that they could meet.

"In view of recent events, we cannot say it's impossible," an official was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The militaries of India and Pakistan on February 25 announced that they have agreed to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and other sectors.

On March 18, Pakistan's powerful Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said it was time for India and Pakistan to "bury the past and move forward".

Addressing a session of the first-ever Islamabad Security Dialogue here, Gen Bajwa also said that the potential for regional peace and development always remained hostage to the disputes and issues between Pakistan and India - the two "nuclear-armed neighbours".

"We feel it is time to bury the past and move forward," he said, adding that the responsibility for a meaningful dialogue rested with India.

India last month said it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence and that the onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment.

Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a militant attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016. Subsequent attacks, including one on an Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.

The ties hit rock bottom after India carried out a surgical strike at a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama attack in 2019 in which 40 CRPF men were killed.

The border tensions increased manifold after India abrogated Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two union territories in August, 2019.

 

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