NEW DELHI: Pakistani Prime Minister Sheikh Baz Sharif has offered to hold talks with India, saying he has asked the leadership of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to help bring the two countries to the negotiating table, although Islamabad then made any discussions conditional on New Delhi’s restoration of Jammu. and Kashmir’s special status.
Indian officials had no immediate comment on Sharif’s remarks. India has always maintained that any talks with Pakistan are impossible under the shadow of terrorist violence.
Sharif made the remarks in an interview with the Al Arabiya news channel of the United Arab Emirates, which he visited last week. This is the first time Sharif has made such a proposal since he became head of the coalition government in April last year.
Hours after the interview aired, Pakistan appeared to reverse course, with Islamabad’s prime minister’s office saying on Tuesday that Sharif had repeatedly said the talks “can only take place after India rolls back its illegal August 5, 2019 operation” – referring to the cancellation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The developments come as Pakistan’s embattled government grapples with a recession, unprecedented floods that have displaced more than 30 million people and a resurgent insurgency by the Pakistani Taliban movement. With the country in danger of defaulting on its foreign debt, Pakistan recently held talks with the International Monetary Fund to restart a stalled bailout program.
Sharif told the news channel that Pakistan had “learned its lessons” after its three wars with India and wanted “to live in peace with India, provided we can solve our real problems”. Pakistan also wants to make better use of its scarce resources to tackle poverty and unemployment, rather than buying military equipment, he said.
“My message to the Indian leaders and Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] It is for us to sit down and have serious and sincere talks to resolve pressing issues like Kashmir, where blatant human rights violations are being committed every day,” he said.
“Secondly, they usurped any semblance of autonomy given to Kashmiris in the constitution – Article 370 – which they revoked in August 2019, and the minority there was grossly mishandled. I Without going into details, suffice it to say that this has to stop. That way a message can be spread across the globe that India is ready for talks, we are ready…”
Noting that both countries are “nuclear powers, armed to the teeth,” he said: “God forbid there is war, who lives to tell what happened. That’s not an option.”
Sharif admitted he had asked UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to “bring the two countries together”.
“I have asked Mohamed bin Zayed – he is a brother of Pakistan and the UAE is a brother country. He also has a good relationship with India and he can play a very important role in bringing both countries to the negotiating table Now, I pledge on my honor that we will talk to Indians in good faith,” he said.
“But tango requires two people. The hands must clap,” he added.
A spokesman for Pakistan’s prime minister’s office said “negotiations are out of the question” if India does not reverse its 2019 actions in Kashmir. “The resolution of the Kashmir dispute must be in line with UN resolutions and the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” the spokesman said.
Sharif also insisted that Pakistan and India must “resolve bilateral issues, especially the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir, through dialogue and peaceful means,” he added.
There have been reports that the UAE and Saudi Arabia have played a quiet role in helping to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, especially after the Pulwama suicide attack in 2019 killed 40 Indian soldiers and brought the two sides close to war. That attack, along with several others targeting Indian military installations, was blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, acknowledged in 2021 that his country was struggling to bring India and Pakistan together in an effort aimed at easing the escalation of the Kashmir issue and bringing bilateral relations “back to a healthy level”. talks played a role.
Sharif said the two countries should live in peace instead of wasting time and resources on quarrels. “Let’s be blunt, even though we’re not willing neighbors, we’re always there. It’s up to us to live in peace, progress, or argue with each other and waste time and resources,” he said.
He added, “Pakistan has learned its lesson. We have had three wars with India and the consequences of those wars [were] More misery, unemployment, poverty and millions of people falling from their satisfaction to less satisfaction. ”
He said Pakistan wanted to turn its human resources into “instruments to provide prosperity”, adding: “For this, we need to use our resources to alleviate poverty and unemployment, provide medicines and high-quality education, and not divide these Resources are wasted on getting ammunition and bombs. That is my message to Modi.”
When Sharif’s older brother, Nawaz Sharif, was prime minister from 2013-17, Modi repeatedly made peace proposals. Modi invited Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration in 2014 and made a surprise visit to Lahore in December 2015 to meet the then Pakistani president. However, relations between the two countries were subsequently derailed by a spate of terrorist attacks.
“The timing of Prime Minister Sharif’s statement is interesting. Even with some fresh efforts from the UAE, India would not be too keen on talking to the outgoing government. So, Sharif’s message seems to be more aimed at the Arab rulers, emphasizing Islamabad’s commitment to The importance of Abu Dhabi as a regional player,” said Dawn foreign affairs correspondent Bakir Sajjad.