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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

‘We are ready to talk to India after polls,’ says Pakistan minister Fawad Chaudhry

Pak information minister alleges lack of keenness from India on Kartarpur Corridor.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2019 07:55 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Diplomatic channels that were used to reduce tensions in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack remain operational, albeit “in the backdrop”, Fawad Chaudhry said in an interview
Diplomatic channels that were used to reduce tensions in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack remain operational, albeit “in the backdrop”, Fawad Chaudhry said in an interview(Reuters/ Representative Image)

Pakistan is prepared to talk to whoever comes to power in India’s general election to work towards the normalisation of bilateral relations and to move things forward from where they had stopped, information minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Tuesday.

Diplomatic channels that were used to reduce tensions in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack remain operational, albeit “in the backdrop”, he said in an interview. However, the Pakistani leadership believes there will be no forward movement until India’s election process is completed, he added.

The remarks by Chaudhry, considered to be close to both Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan’s military leadership, came against the backdrop of foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s contention over the weekend that India was “hatching a new plan for aggression against Pakistan” during April 16-20.

India had dismissed Qureshi’s remarks as an attempt at “whipping up war hysteria” and a “call to Pakistan-based terrorists to undertake a terror attack”.

Asked about Qureshi’s comments, Chaudhry, who spoke in a mix of Urdu and English, replied: “I think the foreign minister referred to the statement of Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, that he has given the entire authority for all actions to the military. From that, he inferred that if this authority has been given, it could be misused at any time.” He said Islamabad is looking towards engaging with the new dispensation in New Delhi after the completion of the Indian elections.

“Pakistan hopes the election process is completed peacefully and whichever government comes to power, we will sit with them and see how things can moved forward. It is obvious that the atmosphere that developed post-Pulwama and the tensions are not in the interests of the people or the region,” he said.

“It’s important to bring it down and to start the process and take it forward from where it had stopped, but for that we have to wait for the Indian election.”

In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack that was claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, India has linked any possible resumption of talks with Pakistan taking immediate, credible and verifiable action against terrorist groups based on its soil

Chaudhry said “diplomatic channels are being used” to address bilateral tensions. “Even in the peak of tensions, the channels were being used and the diplomatic channels are in the backdrop...The high commissioners are in their places...But the way in which a war frenzy has been created in India, especially in the media, that leads to fears but things are moving on,” he said.

However, he contended that the post-Pulwama tensions had not been adequately addressed on the Indian side. “From the Pakistani side, there never was any war frenzy. We tried to reduce the retaliation, we have actually behaved very responsibly. So this is not our issue, and we should see whether the war frenzy in India has lessened,” he said.

Chaudhry described Islamabad’s plan to release 360 Indian prisoners who had completed their sentences as a reflection of the desire to normalise ties with India. “This shows the Pakistani intention of normalisation with India and we will continue this policy,” he said.

He expressed disappointment at the recent death of Pakistani prisoner Shakirullah during a brawl in Jaipur Central Jail in February. The prisoner’s body had been handed over to Pakistani authorities on March 2.

“We have shown magnanimity and the day we released (Wing Commander) Abhinandan (Varthaman), the next day a Pakistani prisoner’s body was handed over to us. But despite that, the atmosphere in Pakistan has remained calm, has been kept calm,” he said, referring to the release of the Indian Air Force pilot whose MiG-21 jet was shot down in an engagement along the Line of Control on February 27.

Islamabad, Chaudhry said, will also continue its efforts to operationalise the Kartarpur Corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak in India with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan in time for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November.

The government in India’s Punjab state, he said, has shown “non-seriousness on the Kartarpur Corridor — sometimes they say one thing, then they say something else”.

He added, “I think apparently the keenness that we should have seen is not there. Let’s see after the elections, what position the next government takes on this issue. I think the Punjabis in India, since they aren’t relevant in the power paradigm...that’s why there is a problem. Otherwise, it’s a historic occasion and Pakistan will take this forward in every way.”

First Published: Apr 10, 2019 06:46 IST

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