Pakistan foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz has said he plans to attend the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan to be hosted by India next month, suggesting the visit could be an opportunity to defuse bilateral tensions.
Aziz will be the first senior Pakistani official to visit India since the terror attack on an army camp at Uri in September, blamed on Pakistan-based militants, that left 19 Indian soldiers dead and prompted New Delhi to pull out of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad.
“Unlike India, which sabotaged the SAARC Summit in Pakistan by pulling out, Pakistan will participate in the Heart of Asia meet in India,” Aziz told journalists in Islamabad on Tuesday.
“India, for bilateral reasons, damaged a multilateral process such as SAARC. Heart of Asia is a multilateral process for Afghanistan, which is a priority for us, so we want to be part of that conference,” he said.
“It’s a good opportunity to defuse the tension,” Aziz, the adviser on foreign affairs to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was quoted as saying by PTV.
A decision on a bilateral meeting with Indian officials on the margins of the Heart of Asia conference, to be held in Amritsar during December 3-4, will be made if there is a request from New Delhi and “according to the situation”, Aziz said.
Replying to a question on US president-elect Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, Aziz said the real estate mogul deserved the Nobel Peace Prize if he could settle the contentious issue.
“India-Pakistan ties will be better when the Kashmir issue is settled. So if you can resolve this, you will get the Nobel Prize,” he quipped.
Bilateral ties have witnessed several ups and downs this year since the terror attack on Pathankot airbase, which was blamed by India on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed. Unrest in Kashmir sparked by the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani added to the tensions, as New Delhi accused Islamabad of backing terror groups.
In recent weeks, both sides have expelled officials on charges of espionage and troops have exchanged fire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.
Aziz said the escalation of tensions along the LoC can destabilise peace in the region. He accused India of “increasing escalations” along the border to “divert attention from its internal affairs”.
Pakistan is fully committed to the ceasefire agreement with India but “New Delhi is not fulfilling its commitment”, he said.
The Heart of Asia conference will identify ways to improve security and bring peace to Afghanistan, which has been mired in conflict since a US-led coalition toppled the Taliban government in 2001.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan too have been strained over the past year, with Kabul accusing Islamabad of harbouring Taliban leaders and seeking to meddle in Afghan affairs.