By: Ali Hussain
Pakistan sees no major ‘breakthrough’ in the stalled dialogue process with India in wake of foreign secretaries meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday that largely remained confined to each other’s ‘concerns’, especially RAW’s subversives activities and the issue of terrorism.
“I wouldn’t call it a ‘breakthrough’ but we conveyed our concerns quite openly … we presented our own concerns and they raised their own issues,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said Wednesday while briefing journalists about his meeting with Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar during his visit to India to attend the Senior Officials’ Meeting of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process on Tuesday.
However, he said that there was realisation on the part of India that dialogue is the only way forward to discuss all outstanding issues. “In our discussion, the Indian side didn’t deny the importance of dialogue process but they didn’t give a date for the Indian foreign secretary’s visit to Pakistan which is due,” he added. He said the two sides discussed bilateral relations and issues of mutual concern in a cordial environment.
Chaudhry said he underscored the need for a structured, sustained and result-oriented comprehensive dialogue process between the two countries, adding that an uninterruptible dialogue process would require commitment from both sides.
“I affirmed to my Indian counterpart that Pakistan believes that a sustained and structured engagement is imperative for resolving the outstanding issues,” he said adding the outstanding issues could only be resolved through a dialogue process between any two states.
“We reiterated our principled position [on dialogue process] and we would welcome whenever India decides,” he added.
About Pakistan’s concerns, he elaborated that in the light of the confession statement by apprehended RAW officer, Kulbushan Jadhav, he conveyed to the Indian side Pakistan’s deep concerns on his illegal entry in Pakistan and his involvement in subversive activities in Karachi and Balochistan towards destabilising Pakistan.
“Unfortunately, such acts undermine efforts to normalise relations between the two countries,” he said. He also rejected the response of the Indian side that Jadhav, “a former Indian Navy officer, was abducted and taken to Pakistan”, adding these claims are ‘incorrect’ and the Indian side was conveyed that our agencies arrested him in Pakistan who was earlier stationed in Chabahar on the Iranian side.
To a question about New Delhi’s request of consular access to Jadhav, he said that the Indian government’s request for counsellor access is under consideration, adding India has acknowledged him as Indian national that’s why they sought the consular access.
The Foreign Secretary further said that he also reiterated Pakistan’s call for a fair investigation and trial of the Samjhauta Express terrorist attack, which resulted in the death of more than 42 innocent Pakistanis. “I expressed our concerns over recent news items regarding efforts being made to exonerate some of the individuals who were responsible for the attack,” he added.
He further said that he also highlighted Pakistan’s commitment to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
“I emphasised that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remained the core issue and it was vital to finding a just solution to this long standing issue as per the UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people,” he added.
Indian Foreign Secretary raised the Pathankot incident, Chaudhry said, adding he informed him that the Joint Investigation Team [JIT] had visited India from March 27 to April 1, 2016.
On the basis of information received from the Indian side, the JIT is currently engaged in further investigations, he added.
He further said that the two sides also discussed humanitarian issues, including the issue of release of all fishermen as well as prisoners who have completed their sentences.
The two sides also stressed the need to facilitate the people-to-people exchanges, including religious tourism, he added.
“Both sides agreed on the need to carry forward the relationship in keeping with the vision of the leadership,” the Foreign Secretary said. About the Heart of Asia – Istanbul process, he said that Pakistan is an active member of the process, which has emerged as an effective platform to discuss regional cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours and regional countries as well as international partners to bring lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan successfully hosted the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia in Islamabad on December 9, 2015. The conference unanimously adopted a forward-looking Islamabad declaration emphasizing closer regional and international cooperation for long term peace and stability in Afghanistan, he added.
Referring to the efforts being made by the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group (QCG) consisting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the US and China to facilitate an “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led” reconciliation process, Chaudhry admitted the Group has so far been unable to start direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as other groups.
He said that the QCG members remain engaged in efforts to facilitate direct peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban on the basis of shared responsibility.
During the Senior Officials’ Meeting in New Delhi, he said they highlighted the positive role being played by Pakistan in efforts towards bringing long-term peace and stability to Afghanistan.
“We reaffirmed our firm commitment to continued close engagement with the government of Afghanistan,” he said, adding they also expressed grave concern over continued violence in Afghanistan claiming innocent lives, particularly the 19 April attack in Kabul.
Reiterating that politically negotiated settlement remains a viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan, he said that they also emphasised the need of continued efforts by all the members of the QCG for early direct peace talks under the principle of shared commitment.
Responding to another query, the foreign secretary expressed his inability to confirm the reports that a delegation of the Taliban’s Qatar office was currently visiting Pakistan, saying he was not aware of any such visit of the delegation. About the upcoming meeting of the QCG, he said that dates for the meeting are being worked out.
Chaudhry further said that he also highlighted “Pakistan’s desire for promoting regional cooperation and connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia through projects like TAPI, CASA 1000, Railroad networks etc, which would help bring shared prosperity to our region.”
The Foreign Secretary declined to comment on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent statement in which he threatened diplomatic reprisals against Pakistan if it refuses to take action against the Afghan Taliban.
Source: Business Recorder