Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has held India responsible for lack of progress in efforts to improve bilateral relations, saying Pakistan wants a constructive dialogue to settle issues such as Kashmir.
The Pakistani premier had visited India in May last year for the swearing-in of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, raising hopes of better relations between the two neighbours. However, ties nose-dived following fierce exchanges of fire between troops of the two sides on the Line of Control.
Sharif said he made the “exceptional decision” to attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony because he “sincerely wanted to take the process of friendship with India forward from where it was interrupted during my last tenure”.
“However, our desire for good neighborly relations with India has not been reciprocated. India unilaterally called off our bilateral dialogue process on a frivolous pretext,” Sharif said in an interview with the Saudi Gazette newspaper.
He was referring to India’s decision to call off talks between the foreign secretaries in August last year after the Pakistani envoy held meetings with leaders of the separatist Hurriyat Conference.
“The Indian foreign secretary visited Pakistan recently as part of his tour of South Asian countries. However, there is no sign of India desiring resumption of dialogue with us,” Sharif said.
“We are ready to engage with India in a constructive dialogue for negotiated settlement of all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar visited Pakistan as part of a “SAARC Yatra” in early March, when the two sides agreed to work together on narrowing differences and finding common ground on mutual concerns.
When Sharif’s PML-N party swept Pakistan’s general election in 2013, he had pledged to build better relations with India. However, his stance did not go down well with the powerful military, which plays a key role in deciding security and foreign policies.
During the interview, Sharif said he believed that peace, security and stability in the region are essential for socio-economic development.
“We are making earnest efforts for friendly relations with all, particularly with our neighbors,” he said.
Sharif described the Kashmir as the “core issue between Pakistan and India”.
“Our policy is based on principles that this issue should be solved on the basis of relevant UN resolutions and aspirations of people of Kashmir. This is essential for the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan,” he said.