ISLAMABAD: Amid media reports of secret, backdoor talks with India and Pakistan's continued denial of such talks, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday said that in the event talks do take place, the nation will be taken into confidence.
Speaking to Geo News on programme "Naya Pakistan", the foreign minister said there was "no question" of not taking the nation into confidence. "But there is an appropriate time for everything," he said.
The minister said that he "admits" there are "intelligence level" talks between the countries and that they have "always existed".
"Even when you are in a state of war, such talks always do take place," he explain.
Qureshi, explaining further the nature of talks at the "intelligence level" and how these are different from backdoor channel talks, said that in the Musharraf and Nawaz eras, there was a "formal back channel" in place, with people appointed to positions and multiple talks, which did take place, which is not the case right now.
He said that Pakistan has always desired a resolution to tensions between the two countries through a dialogue but this was opposed by India. "India was the one that avoided a comprehensive dialogue. Pakistan was never the one to refuse it," he said. The minister said that Pakistan, even today, maintains that the only solution to the outstanding issues between the two countries is a dialogue.
"Two nuclear-armed nations cannot make the suicidal move of a war so the one way forward is a dialogue. The atmosphere for a dialogue was ruined by India and now must be improved by them. If they create a conducive environment, Pakistan is ready to engage," Qureshi said.
He said that for a conducive environment to be born, the issue of Kashmir and relief for Kashmiris is one of fundamental importance and has to be considered.
Qureshi said that whenever dialogue does take place formally, it will be via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is the "appropriate office" to take point on such a matter. He said that for certain complicated matters to be made simple, "if other institutions step in, the government will always welcome the move", but for a proper dialogue to take place, it will have to be through the Foreign Office.
The minister, responding to reports that the UAE had played some sort of a mediatory role for talks to be held between Pakistan and India, said that the impression is false.
"I have just returned after meeting with the UAE foreign minister and he, too, says that for such an impression to have arisen is inappropriate and has rejected it," Qureshi said.
He added that for UAE's ambassador to the US to have spoken about such a thing was a matter of him "going slightly overboard" and the "truth is contrary".
Speaking of Article 370, he said Pakistan had "never accorded it any importance". "It is an internal matter [...] they had done so to revive the confidence of Kashmiris living in occupied Kashmir. Our interest lies in 35-A because a demographic change affects our stance of the Kashmiris' right to self-determination."
He said India will have to review its measures, which never got any support. "Not only did Pakistan and Kashmiris reject the moves, Kashmiris rejected it and so did the enlightened class in India."
"Today everyone admits the BJP government's Kashmir policy backfired, with alienation having only grown and the view that the environment will be ripe for investment did not prove true; the economy has collapsed," he said.
Qureshi ended by saying that a dialogue is ultimately the only way forward and the enlightened groups are well aware of this and when such a dialogue does take place, Pakistan will present its viewpoint.
"When a dialogue does take place (between two rival countries), both sides sit together and listen to each other's viewpoint and devise a way forward," he said.
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