Pakistan is “cooperating closely” with India in the investigation of the attack on Pathankot airbase and hopes that stalled bilateral talks will resume in the next few weeks, foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz has said.
Aziz, the adviser on foreign affairs to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told a select audience at the Royal Institute of International Affairs here on Monday evening that “suspension” of talks did not mean cancellation but “temporary suspension”.
“We still hope that as we make progress on the Pathankot investigation, the dialogue can begin because terrorism-related issues are important,” he said while delivering a lecture on the theme “A Strategic Vision for Pakistan’s Foreign Policy”.
Pakistan’s regional situation, he said, was “further complicated by India’s attitude. We are not seeing a positive response from India. It is a difficult situation.”
Responding to questions, he said: “We are cooperating closely (on the Pathankot attack). Our team visited Pathankot and Delhi. We are now pursuing those investigations.”
India has blamed the January 2 attack on Pathankot airbase on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and demanded action against the banned group’s chief, Masood Azhar. Pakistan has said it needs more evidence to act against the perpetrators.
Aziz also brought up the arrest of an alleged Indian intelligence operative by Pakistani authorities. New Delhi has acknowledged the arrested man, Kulbhushan Jadhav, was a former naval officer but dismissed reports that he was involved in espionage.
“Meanwhile, we have arrested an Indian intelligence operative in Balochistan who was trying to encourage insurgency there. But we still want to resume our composite and comprehensive dialogue, and terrorism is one part of that dialogue,” he said.
Hoping the global community will encourage India to resume dialogue “because without that we cannot deal with the problems that we all face”, Aziz rejected claims that Pakistan is “apologetic” about the arrest of Jadhav.
“We are not apologetic, but we don’t use unparliamentary language. Once investigations are completed, the network that is operating, has been operating, we will properly document it and present it to India and globally,” Aziz told a questioner.
“On RAW’s activities, in last September we exchanged some dossiers with the UN and US. Now of course we have evidence. The composite and comprehensive dialogue has eight segments, one of them is extremism and terrorism, so obviously it is better if we exchange this kind of information across the table rather than through the media,” he said.
Reiterating Pakistan’s stance of Jammu and Kashmir being the “core issue” in bilateral ties, Aziz said “no dialogue can start” without talks on its future. He said a number of formulae had been discussed in the past, but he rejected the idea that the Line of Control be made the border between the two countries.
“Our feeling is that once the dialogue begins, you put on the table all options that have been discussed, you can always find some common ground…you may not have a solution, but can go towards a solution…Of course, the LoC cannot be treated as an international border because the Kashmirirs want the right of self-determination,” he said.
“Now the ground situation in Kashmir is becoming much more volatile because of the sentiment among Kashmir population to renew their cause for self-determination.”
According to Aziz, Pakistan has a better record than India on treating minorities. He alleged Muslims were targeted and discriminated against on “a very large scale in India”.
During the lecture, Aziz outlined four pillars of Pakistan’s foreign policy: security, economic revival, a peaceful neighbourhood and converting the country’s geo-strategic location from a liability to an asset.
“The first priority is our own security. This looks very obvious. But the fact is that by getting involved in other countries’ wars and affairs, we have jeopardised our own security. So the new policy is the policy of non-interference. We will not fight other people’s wars and we will not involve ourselves in any issue that does not directly affect us,” he said.