Sounding skeptical about progress towards normalisation of relations with India, Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz called for managing the situation better so that tensions don’t grow.
“Their narrative has remained unchanged. They (India) do not want to give us credit [for our actions against terrorism] and keep an excuse for not starting dialogue,” the Dawn quoted him, as saying at a foreign policy briefing session held for journalists on Monday.
Aziz asserted that the problem was that New Delhi wanted normalisation on its terms which was not acceptable for Islamabad.
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Stating that his country will not back from its principled stance on talks with India, he said that Pakistan has been insisting that talks should be held on a whole range of eight issues identified for bilateral dialogue but, India wants an exclusive focus on terrorism.
“If no major improvement takes place, we should manage the situation and our minimum objective should be to prevent tensions from growing,” he added.
Aziz wasn’t very hopeful about progress in the Afghan reconciliation process.
“Prospects of the [Afghan] peace process are not good. It would all now depend on the ground situation in Afghanistan,” Aziz said.
He was of the view that elimination of Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone attack last month sabotaged the peace dialogue.
“How can his successor now be asked to join the peace process?” he questioned adding that there had been no signal from the Taliban as yet to suggest that they were preparing to move in this direction.
Aziz noted that there were divisions within Afghanistan about engaging a peace process with the Taliban and lack of clarity about how Kabul wanted to take the initiative forward.
He said that Islamabad could not take full responsibility for bringing the Taliban to the table, but could use “whatsoever influence” it had to facilitate the process.
Regarding the repeated allegation by Kabul and Washington of not adequately acting against the Afghan Haqqani network’s alleged sanctuaries in Pakistan, Aziz pressed that there was no difference of objective and it was rather a matter of sequencing and timing.
Regarding the border issue with Afghanistan he said, “Border management is an immediate need … that is our priority. Moreover, border is not an issue for us, which we would like to negotiate,” he emphasised.
Talking about the US he said that Pakistan was moving in the right direction despite recent setbacks, which led to cancellation of an F-16 deal.
The advisor said that working groups of the bilateral ‘strategic dialogue’ would be meeting shortly.
He was of the view that the US government had concerns about the nuclear programme, but after realising that Islamabad would not budge on that, it started agitating the Haqqani network issue.
“Even there we do not have any difference of objective, we only hold divergent views on timing and sequencing of how we proceed,” he added.