Ties between India and Pakistan are currently at an all-time low following a string of high-profile terror attacks in recent years that were all blamed on Pakistan-based terror groups. India has said that terrorism and talks cannot go together.
The whole of South Asia is hostage to the issue of Kashmir and Islamabad’s overtures for peace were mistaken by New Delhi as a sign of weakness, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday.
Delivering the inaugural address at a conclave organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, Khan said several problems affecting South Asia, such as climate change, can be effectively tackled only if India and Pakistan work together.
“There is only one big problem in South Asia. The whole of South Asia is hostage to the Kashmir issue,” he said, speaking in Urdu at the Islamabad Conclave 2021, the theme for which was “Peaceful and prosperous South Asia”.
“It is with regret I have to say that we tried our best to have talks with India, I called [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi. Despite all the overtures we made, I slowly realised that he thought this was our weakness. There was some other reaction to all our efforts for peace, they were thinking Pakistan is making efforts for peace since it is very weak,” he said.
Khan contended it was “unfortunate that we were not interacting with the government of a normal India, we were competing with an ideology”.
He further said: “Our problem is only Kashmir and that problem can’t be resolved through guns and bombs. It can be resolved only through dialogue, and its solution is political dialogue…Whatever India is trying through the use of guns, strong-arm tactics, and repression of Kashmiris will never succeed.”
There was no immediate response to Khan’s remarks from the Indian side.
Ties between India and Pakistan are currently at an all-time low following a string of high-profile terror attacks in recent years that were all blamed on Pakistan-based terror groups. India has said that terrorism and talks cannot go together. On the other hand, Pakistan has contended that India hasn’t provided evidence to back up its accusations.
Khan pointed out that the whole of South Asia and the region’s problems were connected. “There are two problems in our region – trade is very low because of political differences and conflict, and we are also connected in climate change. For this, we pray that India will one day have such a government with which we can talk on the basis of logic and sanity and resolve our problems,” he said.
“We hope there will be such a government in India that we can sit with at the table and solve the Kashmir problem, and then jointly we can fight several things, such as the pollution in Lahore. See the satellite images – they show a pollution cover over Delhi and [Pakistan’s] Punjab,” Khan said.
“Till the two countries sit together, no matter what we do for Lahore, we will solve only half the problem.”
Noting that India is very vulnerable to climate change as Himalayan glaciers are rapidly melting, Khan said the future of the two countries in this area is connected. “We should jointly work hard on climate change but till now, I’m not seeing the required seriousness among world leaders because their commercial interests clash with the steps needed to stop climate change,” he added.
Khan described the situation in Afghanistan as Pakistan’s “other big worry”, but said things could have been worse. “We feared there could be civil war in Afghanistan and this was the biggest nightmare scenario for Pakistan,” he said.
The freezing of Afghanistan’s assets around the world is having an impact on the Afghan people and any humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan would present problems for Pakistan and Iran, Khan said.
Referring to the possibility of a Cold War-like situation and the creation of blocs, Khan said Pakistan will work to stop such blocs. “We should not become part of any bloc. The world lost a lot because of the earlier Cold War…Pakistan doesn’t want to get caught up as it did in the last Cold War,” he said.
Amid a Cold War-like situation between the US and China, Pakistan will try to stop the gap between these two countries just as it brought them together in the 1970s, he said.
Reports have suggested Pakistan pulled out of the Summit for Democracy convened by US President Joe Biden because of its close ties with China.