ISLAMABAD, Oct 7 (APP): Rejecting the Indian claim of carrying out “surgical strikes,” Pakistan’s High Commissioner to New Delhi, Abdul Basit on Friday said his country will never allow the credibility of its deterrence to erode.
“If you want to call cross-LoC firing as ‘surgical strikes’ that is your prerogative and we can’t stop you. But I can assure you, had there been any ‘surgical strikes’, Pakistan would have responded immediately and proportionately. As far as Pakistan is concerned, no ‘surgical strike’ took place, it was cross-LoC firing.
“It is for India to explain. As far as Pakistan is concerned, we would say it is very dangerous to nurture false expectations. There are high stakes involved on both sides and we are very confident that our deterrence is working and Pakistan will never allow the credibility of its deterrence to erode,” Pakistani High Commissioner said in an interview with Indian weekly magazine Outlook.
To a question, Abdul Basit said, “We never wanted to escalate the situation either vertically or horizontally. Pakistan has always proportionately responded to whatever violation has taken place in the past. And that continues to be our stance. If there is any action from the Indian side, you can rest assured that Pakistan will respond.”
In response to another question, he said, “Pakistan is very clear; we ourselves are a victim of terrorism. In the past, whenever there have been acts of terrorism in India, accusations have been immediately hurled at Pakistan. I think it is high time we look at things realistically. Pakistan is committed not to allow its territory to be used for violence or terrorist activities.”
About the continued Indian accusation to hold Pakistan responsible for acts of terror in India, the Pakistan High Commissioner said, “That is unfortunate. If this is aimed at pressurizing Pakistan to change its position on Jammu and Kashmir, I can assure you there will be no change or compromise on our principled position on J&K.”
To another question, he said, “When thousands of Kashmiris attend Burhan Wani’s funeral, you cannot deny that it is a legitimate and indigenous struggle. You cannot expect this movement to peter out and therefore it is important to look at the situation realistically. To use terrorism as a reason to pressurise Pakistan or deny the people of Kashmir their legitimate right will not work. The time has come to discuss these issues sincerely so that we can move from conflict management to conflict resolution.”
“Acts of terrorism are going on in Pakistan too and there are attempts to destabilise the country. So it is also an important issue for Pakistan. Both countries need to discuss all these issues,” he responded to another query.
To a question, the Pakistan High Commissioner said, “Pakistan is too big a country to be isolated. It has excellent relations with countries around the world. This is not the first time that a SAARC summit has been postponed. But we attach importance to SAARC and we are confident that the 19th SAARC summit will be held in Pakistan, perhaps next year.”
About the decision of most SAARC members to stay away from the Islamabad summit, he said, “I think they have concerns at present and they are unable to attend. But we will be able to hold the 19th summit and all these countries will attend it.”
Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit while responding to another question said, “Terrorism is also our issue, our problem. There is no reason for Pakistan to shy away from discussing terrorism. It is a local, regional and global challenge and we need to deal with it collectively.”
To a question about the prospects of resumption of stalled Pak-India dialogue, Abdul Basit said, “We need to move from symbolism to substance. It is time to move from conflict management to conflict resolution. India is not willing to discuss Kashmir, which is the core issue. Dialogue for the sake of dialogue will not serve any purpose. We need to have a dialogue based on sovereign equality, mutual respect and then see how we can resolve our problems. Both countries have fought four wars on Kashmir. Terrorism is also an issue between us, but if we can resolve the Kashmir issue, things between our countries will immediately change.”
About the possibility of another war between Pakistan and India, he said, “No, I don’t really see that happening. I think it will be foolish to think along these lines.”
To a question, the Pakistani High Commissioner said, “India also recognizes that J&K is the core issue needing resolution. If you look at all the agreements between the two sides, including the joint resolution we signed in 2015, you will see that they clearly say the two sides need to resolve this dispute. Both sides are committed to resolve the issue in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Attempts to brush this core issue under the carpet will not work.” Only if India is willing to show flexibility will the dialogue be useful. Otherwise, the talks will take us nowhere.”
To a question, he said, “Terrorism is also an important issue for us but India needs to appreciate that the primary reason for our mutual distrust is the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Therefore, it needs to be thoroughly discussed in order to resolve it otherwise we can come up with various excuses and pretexts not to engage with each other. Pakistan is willing to discuss all issues but it has to be a meaningful process.”
It is not sequencing either. We had agreed in 2015 December on the framework. It is now a matter of starting that process. We must have a meaningful dialogue, we cannot engage for the sake of symbolism. It is important to have symbolism but we must move forward building upon our past accomplishments to resolve the issues and solve our problems. It is a comprehensive dialogue that includes all issues from Jammu and Kashmir to terrorism, trade culture and religious-tourism. But we need to engage meaningfully and purposefully. If India is not ready then we can always wait.”
When asked is there a silver lining in all this?, the Pakistani High Commissioner said, “As a diplomat I am always optimistic and I would like diplomacy to win at the end of the day.”