The “core issue” of Kashmir will always top the agenda of any bilateral talks, Pakistan has said while responding to India’s assertion that dialogue can begin only when Islamabad stops backing terrorism.
Pakistan outlined its stance while exercising its “right of reply” to respond to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, when she said that Islamabad should focus on the issue of terrorism instead of the four-point peace initiative proposed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“The core issue of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be cast aside by empty rhetoric. It has been and will always be on top of the agenda of any talks between India and Pakistan,” said Bilal Ahmad, counsellor in Pakistan’s permanent mission to the UN.
“This is because durable peace and stability in the region depends on a just and lasting settlement of this dispute in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council.”
Ahmad alleged India is using the “terrorism bogey” to stall bilateral dialogue. He also blamed India for unrest and terror on Pakistani soil, saying dossiers on the matter had been handed over to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon.
“Using the terrorism bogey, India has not only stalled the bilateral dialogue but also vitiated the overall atmosphere between the two countries,” he said.
“It is therefore disingenuous of India to ignore the serious peace initiative proposed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan from this august forum,” he added.
Ahmad said during his speech that India should withdraw its troops and let Kashmiris decide their future in a UN-mandated plebiscite.
Pakistan, he said, had handed over to the UN Secretary-General, dossiers containing so-called “evidence” of Indian involvement in fomenting unrest on Thursday.
The dossiers include details of alleged “Indian interference and support for terrorism in Balochistan and Karachi as well as its security and intelligence agencies’ link with the Tehrik-e-Taliban especially in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas)”, he claimed.
A day after Sharif raked up the Kashmir issue at the UN , Swaraj used the same forum to raise the “illegal occupation of parts of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir” by Pakistan and said terror attacks are engineered to legitimise this occupation.
Swaraj said terrorism emanating from Pakistan is hampering the normalisation of bilateral ties and that “talks and terror cannot go together”. She said: “We do not need four points, we need just one – give up terrorism and let us sit down and talk.”
Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived to a new low after talks between the National Security Advisers were cancelled in August because of differences on the agenda and a planned meeting between Pakistan’s NSA Sartaj Aziz and Kashmiri separatists.
In a related development, Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz has again accused India of being “involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan”.
Addressing a news conference in New York, he rejected India’s charge that Pakistan is supporting terrorists. Pakistan has suffered the most in the fight against terrorism, he said.
Pakistan has apprised foreign ministers of 15 countries about “Indian aggression” on the Line of Control and the international boundary, Aziz was quoted as saying by Radio Pakistan.
Islamabad has always desired to resolve all disputes with New Delhi through peaceful talks while India is stressing only on terrorism, Aziz said.