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  World   Asia  17 May 2018  Pakistan Army for better ties with India

Pakistan Army for better ties with India

THE ASIAN AGE. | SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : May 17, 2018, 1:37 am IST
Updated : May 17, 2018, 1:37 am IST

Pak military officials call for a ‘comprehensive Indo-Pak dialogue’.

Asif Ghafoor (Photo:ANI)
 Asif Ghafoor (Photo:ANI)

Islamabad: In a move that is set to fuel enormous speculation, Pakistan’s powerful military is now pitching for better ties with India, arguing that “engagement is the key to normalisation” and that “war is a failure of strategy”. In a recent interaction with reporters of select south Asian media publications including this newspaper who visited the Pakistani Capital Islamabad, the Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR)—the wing of the Pakistan armed forces that interacts with the media—-Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor also said Pakistan is a peaceful country and does not want war with India, adding that Islamabad has always been ready for a “comprehensive dialogue” with New Delhi. However, he reiterated the Pakistan Army’s position that it would give a “befitting response” if war was “imposed” on it.

Maj. Gen. Ghafoor also spoke on the need for the media in SAARC countries to have a “regular and an Apolitical (non-political) interaction” with each other in the interests of peace in the region. The timing of the comments are being seen by foreign policy observers as an indication of a powerful signal from the Pakistan Army that it is keen on resumption of the Indo-Pak peace process. It also comes in the wake of track-2 diplomacy efforts picking up after a team of former Indian diplomats and academicians visited Pakistan recently. Ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours have deteriorated sharply over the past two years, with tensions between the two armies on the Line of Control (LoC). After the informal summit recently between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Chinese city of Wuhan, experts believe China is keen to nudge Pakistan to adopt a more conciliatory tone vis-a-vis India. It is also widely believed that it is the Army in Pakistan that has the final say in that country on strategic matters and ties with India.

Interacting with reporters in Islamabad, Maj. Gen. Ghafoor said, “Engagement is key to normalisation. War is a failure of strategy. We are a peaceful country. We don’t war. But if war is imposed, a befitting response will be given.” He also said India should “stop firing” at the LoC.

The ISPR DG told reporters that Pakistan had always supported a comprehensive dialogue with India but claimed that it was New Delhi which did not want dialogue. When asked by this newspaper about the high profile terror attacks on India from Pakistani soil such as the Pathankot and Uri attacks, an unfazed Maj. Gen. Ghafoor shot back, “You are talking about two high profile attacks (in India). We (Pakistan) have seen hundreds of attacks and we have (former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan) Jadhav as proof.” It may be recalled that Jadhav is in captivity in Pakistan and that a Pakistani military court had sentenced him last year to death on charges of espionage and terrorism. New Delhi had called the Pakistani allegations baseless and had said Jadhav, a businessman after retirement, was abducted from Iran.

Maj. Gen. Ghafoor also told reporters that the Pakistan Army had carried out operations against terrorists and that there were no terror camps operating from Pakistani soil. However, the statement flies in the face of concerns expressed by Pakistan’s neighbours India and Afghanistan that the territory of Pakistan or that controlled by it is being used to stage terror attacks on both.

Nevertheless, what generated much interest was the conciliatory tone of Maj. Gen. Ghafoor when he asked the media from the SAARC countries to work towards removal of the trust deficit. “Media from SAARC countries must have a regular interaction. It should be an Apolitical (non-political) interaction. The media must play a role in removal of the trust deficit,” he said.

It may be recalled that the 19th SAARC Summit, which was scheduled to have been held in Islamabad in 2016, was “indefinitely postponed” back then after India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan among others pulled out of the event. India had then cited cross-border terrorism as the reason for pulling out of the summit after the Pathankot and Uri terror attacks.

Tags: ispr, asif ghafoor