ISLAMABAD: In a bid to resolve the Kashmir dispute, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, extending an olive branch to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, asked to hold "serious and sincere" talks over the matter.
The prime minister's offer to hold talks came during an interview with the Al Arabiya news channel. "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," he said.
Speaking about the Muslims in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu Kashmir (IIOJK), the prime minister said that flagrant human rights violations were taking place day in and day out in the region under Modi's watch.
He said that the neighbouring country had usurped any semblance of autonomy given to the Kashmiris according to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. The autonomy was revoked in August 2019.
The premier also said that the minorities in India were being persecuted. “This must stop so that message can go around the globe that India is ready to have talks.”
PM Shehbaz said Pakistan and India are neighbours and have to live with each other.
“It is up to us to live peacefully and make progress or quarrel with each other, and waste time and resources. We have three wars with India and it only brought more misery, poverty and unemployment to the people. We have learnt our lesson and we want to live in peace provided we are able to resolve our genuine problems.
“We want to alleviate poverty, achieve prosperity, and provide education and health facilities and employment to our people and not waste our resources on bombs and ammunition, that is the message I want to give to Prime Minister Modi,” he added.
The premier remarked that both countries are nuclear powers and armed to teeth. "If God forbid a war breaks out who will live to tell what happened," said PM Shehbaz.
He said the leadership of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could play an important role to bring Pakistan and India together, adding he would hold talks with the Indian leadership with the sincerity of purpose.
He said Saudi Arabia was a friendly and brotherly country, and they had unique brotherly relations for centuries.
Before Pakistan came into being and carved out of India, millions of Muslims had brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia and they were visiting Makkah and Madina, he recalled.
Speaking about his official visit to the UAE, the PM said that the Gulf country was a second home for millions of Pakistanis and as prime minister.
He said that UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was an affectionate brother and great supporter of Pakistan and wanted the people of Pakistan to progress and become prosperous.
“Leadership of Pakistan and Gulf countries have resolved to cooperate with each other in the realm of trade and culture and project Islam as a religion of peace and shun all forms of terrorism. We are working together as strategic partners.”
The prime minister said Pakistan’s woes and difficulties would not have decreased without the tangible and substantial support of the brotherly Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, who were reliable and trustworthy partners.
He said the Pakistani nation was resilient and brave, and it would stand on its own feet by promoting trade and investment.
To a question, he said the survival of the world lay in co-existence and what was happening in eastern Europe had devastated the world and commodity prices had skyrocketed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry has expressed shock at PM Shehbaz's statement, saying that the party "strongly rejects" the premier's approach to hold talks with the Indian prime minister.
Chaudhry said that the prime minister "cannot be allowed to sell Kashmir". He stressed that the Modi leadership reserve the constitutional position of Kashmir to its original.
Later, Prime Minister's Office spokesperson issued a clarification on the PM’s statement, saying that the premier has "repeatedly stated on record that talks can only take place after India has reversed its illegal action of August 5, 2019".
"Without India's revocation of this step, negotiations are not possible," the PMO spokesperson said in a statement issued on Twitter, adding that the premier had made his position very clear in his interview with Al Arabiya.
The PMO spokesperson stated that PM Shehbaz Sharif has always highlighted the resolution of Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India via "dialogue and peaceful means".
"In reference to PM Shehbaz Sharif's interview to Al Arabiya, the spokesman of the PM Office has said the PM has consistently maintained that Pakistan and India must resolve their bilateral issues, especially the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir, through dialogue and peaceful means," the tweet read.
It further stated that the Kashmir dispute must be settled as per the United Nations resolutions and "aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir".
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