Underscoring that war is not an option, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Saturday proposed that India must release Jammu and Kashmir leaders and allow him to meet them, for bilateral talks with Delhi to be held.
These were the terms set by Qureshi, in an interview to BBC Urdu published Saturday, as Islamabad offered “conditional talks” with Delhi. His remarks come a day after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan warned of a threat similar to World War II in the region, but “under the nuclear shadow”.
On Saturday, Qureshi said, “Pakistan has never refused to negotiate but the right environment for talks is not clear from the Indian side.”
“In an atmosphere where there is a curfew, people are facing a state of life and death, gang rapes are being reported, people are being sent to prisons, I do not see any likelihood of negotiations.”
He said there are three parties involved in the Kashmir dispute. “Pakistan, India and Kashmir. I believe, if India is serious about it, it must release the Kashmiri leadership and allow me to meet them and do consultations. I will have to weigh their emotions as Pakistan cannot sit on the negotiation table by disrespecting their sentiments and crushing Kashmiris feelings,” he said.
There was no official response from India, but Delhi has described the developments in Kashmir as an “internal matter” and has always maintained that bilateral dialogue can happen only in an atmosphere free of terrorism.
Qureshi said war is not an option to deal with the Kashmir issue and Pakistan never followed an aggressive policy and always preferred peace, adding that the current government of Pakistan has repeatedly offered to start talks because the two nuclear-armed neighbours cannot take the risk of going to war. “War will bring destruction for people and the world. Therefore, war is no option,” he said.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, Khan had said, “With the nuclear shadow hovering over South Asia, we realize that Pakistan and India have to move out of a zero-sum mind-set to begin dialogue on Kashmir, various strategic matters and trade. On Kashmir, the dialogue must include all stakeholders, especially the Kashmiris. We have already prepared multiple options that can be worked on while honoring the right to self-determination the Kashmiris were promised by the Security Council resolutions and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.”
“Through dialogue and negotiations, the stakeholders can arrive at a viable solution to end the decades of suffering of the Kashmiri people and move toward a stable and just peace in the region. But dialogue can start only when India reverses its illegal annexation of Kashmir, ends the curfew and lockdown, and withdraws its troops to the barracks.”
Since August 5, Khan has threatened to “teach Delhi a lesson”, told Pakistan’s parliament that “incidents like Pulwama are bound to happen again”. “What will happen then? They will attack us and we will respond and the war can go both ways… But if we fight a war till we shed the last drop of our blood, who will win that war? No one will win it and it will have grievous consequences for the entire world. This is not nuclear blackmail,” he had said.
On Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said, “We condemn the irresponsible remarks and tweets by Pakistani leaders on matters internal to India”. “The main motive behind this is to form an alarming situation for India which is far from ground realities. Pakistan needs to understand that they have been snubbed from all sides. The world has seen their provocative and unsubstantiated rhetoric based on lies and deceit.”