Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz claimed that India was deliberately delaying talks with Pakistan on the basis of “one pretext or other”.

He said that Pakistan’s priority is to establish better relations with its neighbors, including India. Aziz felt that the two countries’ economic goals could not be achieved without talks, adding that “it takes two to achieve that objective.”

The adviser said that dialogue between Pakistan and India should not have been suspended after the Pathankot attack.

Asserting that India was reluctant to hold dialogue with Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz on Friday also accused India of using excuses like the Pathankot attack to further delay talks with Islamabad on several issues important for both the nations.

He said the Sir Creek issue related to Navies of both countries and Siachen related to both Armies. “Indian Army also has stakes in Siachen and when last time both the governments had reached an agreement, it was the Indian Army who had rejected it.”

He maintained that as far as the establishment’s role in Pakistan’s India policy was concerned, he said that governments all over the world consulted their establishments. “We also have a mechanism of consultation. Let India come to dialogue table and if we shall need any consultation with our institutions, that is our affair.”

In response to Sartaj Aziz’s statements, Indian Minister of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “As far as the comments of Sartaj Aziz are concerned, I would say that India has never ever shied away from any engagement with Pakistan and is prepared to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan bilaterally, in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.”

He recalled that it was Prime Minister Modi who took the decision to travel to Lahore at very short notice on December 25 last year. Swarup claimed that Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was prepared to go to Pakistan in the first half of January this year to hold initial discussions on the modalities of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue, but the Pathankot incident had prevented this.

“After that incident of Pathankot, it was a natural and legitimate acceptation of both the governments and the people of India, that there should be concrete action from Pakistan which has not denied the involvement of its nationals in the attack,” Swarup added.