By SJA Jafri + Bureau Report
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called for talks with India to discuss “burning issues such as Kashmir” while asking the United Arab Emirates to play a role in resolving the differences between the two neighbors.
Terming the UAE a “brotherly country” while on a visit there last week, Sharif, in an interview with Al Arabiya aired on Tuesday, said: “I will give my word that we will talk to India with sincerity, but it takes two to tango.”
“My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is that let us sit down on the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning issues like Kashmir,” Sharif said.
The Himalayan territory of Kashmir has been a flashpoint between the two countries since they gained independence from British rule in 1947. Since then, the two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars, two of which were over Kashmir, which both claim in its entirety but control parts of it.
“We are neighbors. Let us be very blunt. Even if we are not neighbors by choice, we are there forever, and it is up to us to live peacefully. We have learned our lessons. We have had three wars with India and the consequence of those wars has only brought more misery, unemployment, and poverty,” he said.
Four years ago, India’s Hindu nationalist government, headed by PM Modi, revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted Indian-administered Kashmir partial autonomy.
The decision resulted in a surge of strong anti-India sentiments in the region and led to a wave of protests by a large section of the population, followed by a harsh government crackdown.
India alleges Pakistan continues to provide support to armed rebels in the valley, charges which Pakistan steadfastly denies, saying it provides only diplomatic support to Kashmir’s struggle for the right to self-determination.
Sharif referred to the Indian state’s actions in Kashmir as “flagrant human rights violations taking place day in and day out” and said both countries must think of their future.
“This must stop, so [the] message can go around the world that India is ready to have talks and we are more than ready to talk. We want to convert our resources into tools to provide prosperity … that’s the message I want to give to Modi,” he said.
“We are both nuclear powers. God forbid, if a war takes place, who will live to tell what happened? This is not an option.”
In a subsequent statement issued by Sharif’s office, it was clarified that the prime minister has consistently maintained that talks with India can only happen once the revocation of Article 370 is reversed.
“The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated on record that talks can only take place after India had reversed its illegal action of August 5, 2019; without India’s revocation of this step, negotiations are not possible. The settlement of the Kashmir dispute must be in accordance with the UN resolutions & the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir,” the statement read.
The constitutional changes approved by the Indian parliament on August 5 revoking autonomy and separate citizenship law for Indian-administered Kashmir are set to become operational on October 31.