Under severe attack over terrorism emanating from its soil, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz on Sunday hit back saying it is “simplistic” to blame one country even as he raked up the issue of strain in Indo-Pak ties at the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference on Afghanistan.
Aziz asserted his attending the meet despite “escalation” along the LoC was testimony to Pakistan’s “unflinching” commitment for lasting peace in Afghanistan and expressed unhappiness over cancellation of SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November, terming it as a setback to regional cooperation. He did not mention the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
Noting that Pakistan was aware about serious challenges being faced by Afghanistan, Aziz said, “The first and foremost in our view is continuing violence and acts of terrorism claiming scores of human lives. This needs to be addressed urgently and effectively through collective efforts. The security situation in Afghanistan is very complex. It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view.”
His strong response came after India and Afghanistan hit out at Pakistan for sponsoring and supporting terrorism and called for “resolute action” against terrorists as well as their masters. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who jointly inaugurated the annual Ministerial conference along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, directly hit out at Pakistan for “launching an undeclared war” against his country and demanded an Asian or international regime to verify Pak-sponsor terror operations.
In his address at the HoA conference, a platform for Afghanistan’s transition, Aziz said, “My participation in the event, despite escalation on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary with India, is testimony to Pakistan’s unflinching commitment for lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region. I look forward to meaningful deliberations today towards this objective,” he said and pressed for a politically negotiated settlement of the Afghan issue.
Observing that regional cooperation plays an important role in ensuring political stability and promoting economic cooperation, he said postponement of the SAARC Summit scheduled in Islamabad in November was a setback to these efforts and “undermined the spirit of regional cooperation”. “SAARC is an important forum, not only for promoting regional cooperation but also for the improvement of relations,” he said.
India had pulled out of SAARC Summit, citing cross-border terror strikes emanating from Pakistan. Afghanistan and other SAARC countries had also sought cancellation of the eight-nation meet on the grounds that there was incitement of terrorism in the region. Aziz arrived amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan over a series of cross-border terror attacks on India by Pakistan-based terror outfits and India’s surgical strike across the LoC two months back.