India is presuming Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s guilt by seeking a ban on him, Pakistan’s foreign adviser Sartaj Aziz told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.
India accuses Azhar of masterminding the January attack on the Pathankot airbase and wanted him added to the UN Security Council’s sanctions list, but the move was blocked by China.
“We follow a principled position on this. The Security Council system is meant for al Qaeda and related organisations but India is trying to use the forum to point fingers at Pakistan vis-a-vis groups and
individuals,” Aziz said in response to why Pakistan took China’s help to block the move.
“India alleges that the groups and individuals are sponsored by our intelligence agencies. You are presuming Masood Azhar’s guilt. You mentioned agencies in the resolution. India’s National Investigation Agency has also said Pakistan’s agencies are not involved in Pathankot.”
Ties between India and Pakistan have been on a downswing after the Pathankot attack in which seven soldiers and four Pakistan-based terrorists were killed.
Aziz acknowledges this. “As far as Pakistan is concerned, friendly relations with all our neighbours remain our cornerstone but there are obstacles. The lack of trust is the most obvious obstacle and the only way forward in overcoming the trust deficit is dialogue,” he said.
India and Pakistan had agreed to resume the comprehensive dialogue after meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif and between the national security advisers. But the Pathankot attack has led to a deadlock. India has sought strong and effective action against the JeM, while Pakistan wants the dialogue process to continue.
“Making terrorism an excuse for not talking is not justified,” Aziz said. “We have had good cooperation on Pathankot and even sent a team to India. Blaming us for not doing enough is not justified. It is for
India to decide whether they want to break the logjam or not. We don’t deny the need for a discussion on terrorism and it is one of the eight topics under the comprehensive dialogue.”
Foreign secretaries of the two nations were scheduled to resume talks in mid-January but the meeting was postponed after the Pathankot attack.
Modi and Sharif continue to stay in touch and speak to each other over the phone but the two countries have made little headway in having a structured dialogue.
Also, Modi has accepted an invitation by his Pakistani counterpart to participate in the Saarc summit that Islamabad will host in November. But will the lack of effective action against the Pakistan-based JeM militant group make it difficult for him to go?
Aziz offers a solution. “The resumption of dialogue will provide the opportunity to discuss all issues so that Modi’s visit can provide the basis for further initiatives.”