ISLAMABAD: Days after India blamed Pakistan for not creating a conducive environment for talks, the Foreign Office, in its rejoinder has put the onus on New Delhi for creating an environment for dialogue and peace in the region.
Addressing the weekly press briefing, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said dialogue was important between Pakistan and India in an environment which is “free of coercion and free of belligerence that India continues to demonstrate in the region”.
She was replying to a query about PM Shehbaz Sharif’s recent remarks that Pakistan was ready to talk to its neighbour “provided that the neighbour is serious to talk [on] serious matters … because war is no more an option”.
Replying to Mr Sharif’s statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said an “environment free of terror and hostility” is necessary to restart talks.
Ms Baloch emphasised that Pakistan believed in a peaceful neighbourhood and wanted peace with all its neighbours on mutual respect and in conformity with international law. “The comments of the prime minister reaffirm this position,” she said. “We also believe dialogue is important between Pakistan and India in an environment which is free of coercion and free of belligerence that India continues to demonstrate in the region. We believe the ball is in India’s court to create an environment for peace and dialogue”.
On the treatment of minorities in India, the FO spokesperson expressed concern that there was “an alarming increase” in the targeting of minorities in India.
“We are concerned about the recent developments and communal and ethnic violence in Manipur. And recently there was a burning of mosque in Gurugram which also resulted in the killing of the Imam.”
Ms Baloch added that Hindu supremacist organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal are engaged in violent acts against Indian Muslims to terrorise them which was a “matter of serious concern”.
In response to a question about Pakistan’s cricket team visit to India, the FO spokesperson said: “We expect India as the host to provide full and complete security to our team. Our deep concerns about the security of Pakistan’s Cricket Team are being conveyed to the ICC and the Indian authorities. At this point, these concerns are being conveyed through our cricket authorities. We will continue to monitor the situation and would determine if some other channels of communication are also in order.”
She said, “Pakistan’s constructive and responsible approach contrasts with that of India which has repeatedly politicised sports by refusing to send its cricket team to Pakistan for Asia Cup or denying visas for Pakistan’s Blind Cricket Team,” she said.
On the issue of the involvement of Afghan nationals in the Zhob attack, Ms Baloch said the FO has been in contact with Afghanistan embassy and authorities.
“We have shared with them the discovery that we have made with regard to the identity of terrorists who were involved in attack … We have reiterated on several occasions that the Afghan soil should not be used to foment terrorism against Pakistan,” she said when asked about Afghan Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid’s tweet that Pakistan should talk through diplomatic channels rather than going to the media on this issue.
In her last briefing before Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s tenure as foreign minister expires, the FO spokesperson disclosed he undertook 36 visits during his 15 months as the chief diplomat.
She said some of the visits were for participation in multilateral conferences like UNGA and other UN-related activities and some were as part of PM’s delegation. “So these numbers are not as clear cut as you would expect.”
“[W]e have focused on rebuilding of ties and restoring trust with key capitals and reinvigorating substantive engagement with traditional partners. There has been an effort to expand our diplomatic footprint, retake our space in the global discourse on important issues and reassert Pakistan’s presence at the multilateral stage,” she said.
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