We Want Friendly Relations With India: Pak diplomat
(This was originally posted in The Hindustan Times by Rezaul H Laskar)
Pakistan desires friendly relations with all countries, including India, and the two sides should resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue, the senior-most Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi said on Tuesday.
Pakistan’s chargé d’affaires Aftab Hasan Khan made the remarks while addressing an event organised to mark Pakistan Day. The comments came against the backdrop of a thaw in bilateral relations after the armies of the two countries recommitted themselves to the 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) last month.
“Pakistan wants to have friendly relations with all countries including India,” Khan said, according to a statement issued by the Pakistan high commission.
“To achieve peace between Pakistan and India, both countries shall resolve all outstanding issues including [Jammu and Kashmir] through dialogue,” he said. Peace within South As Khan spoke after raising the Pakistani flag at the brief ceremony with limited participation that was organised in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Messages from the president and prime minister of Pakistan were also read out at the ceremony.
Noting that Muslims under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah had made a resolve to create a separate homeland on March 23, 1940, Khan said the day is observed as Pakistan Day every year. He stressed the importance of each generation making its own contribution to realise Jinnah’s vision.
The Indian and Pakistani high commissions in Islamabad and New Delhi are currently headed by the deputy chiefs of mission as Pakistan decided not to post an envoy in the Indian capital after Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was scrapped in August 2019. Pakistan also expelled the Indian envoy and downgraded diplomatic ties.
The Indian and Pakistani armies began strictly adhering to the 2003 ceasefire on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir from the midnight of February 24 – the apparent outcome of behind-the-scene contacts between senior security officials of the two countries.
Last week, Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa said the time has come for India and Pakistan to “bury the past and move forward”, though he cautioned that any peace process would be susceptible to disruption without the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Bajwa’s conciliatory remarks came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said India will have to take the first step for improving bilateral ties by addressing Kashmir, the only issue standing in the way of better relations. The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan are expected to participate in the ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe on March 30. However, it is still not clear whether they will hold a bilateral meeting in Dushanbe.