Sartaj Aziz, foreign policy and security adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made an opening statement at a press conference in Islamabad on July 13, 2015 describing the talks held recently in Ufa, Russia between Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
To help readers decode the statement and zero in on what Pakistan considers significant in explaining the Ufa talks to its domestic audience, The Wire has added highlights and sub-headings in Aziz’s statement below:
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with Mr. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India came about in the wake of growing international support for Pakistan’s foreign policy stance. The meeting, which was held at the request of the Indian side, was cordial.
Prime Minister Modi shared the over-arching vision of our Prime Minister that peaceful and good neighbourly relations between Pakistan and India are imperative to create the necessary space in which both countries should focus on the economic welfare of their peoples. The 10 July meeting served to achieve one major objective, i.e. reduce tensions and create environment for meaningful talks on all issues of importance to both countries.
Our country and our region have several challenges, ranging from outstanding issues like Kashmir to terrorism to poverty and low human development. People of South Asia are yearning for peace so that their governments could focus on socio-economic agenda to improve the quality of life of millions of people living in South Asia.
‘All Issues’ means Kashmir
The 10 July meeting with the Prime Minister of India was not the formal start of any dialogue process but it served an important purpose to achieve an understanding that both neighbors must reduce tensions and hostility in order to constructively engage in a structured dialogue on all issues of bilateral and regional interest, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. The statement issued clearly recognizes that “India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues”. And we all know which are those outstanding issues. Kashmir of course tops the list of outstanding issues, but there are also other important issues like Siachen, Sir Creek, Interference and Water. Kashmiris have suffered for three generations now. Their right to self determine their destiny has not been granted. Pakistan has stood by the Kashmiris in their legitimate struggle. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif affirmed our principled position in clear and unequivocal terms during his annual speech at the UN General Assembly. We would continue to extend political, moral, and diplomatic support to our Kashmiri brethren.
The 10 July meeting provided an opportunity to identify some areas where the two countries could promote cooperation right away in order to reduce tensions and hostility. Peace and tranquility on the LoC and Working Boundary is in the interest of both countries. Even though at present ceasefire is by and large being maintained, there have been occasions when this ceasefire was violated causing casualties and injuries to people inhabiting those areas. Both leaders agreed that the existing mechanism of regular meetings between DG Rangers, DG BSFs and DG MOs should be held to ensure full compliance with the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding.
The two sides have also agreed to revive Track II dialogue to explore ways of resolving issues that are lingering for a long time and need to be resolved in order to give peace a chance. Modalities for this track will be worked out through diplomatic channels.
There was a frank discussion on each other’s concerns. Pakistan has been deeply concerned, not only about hostile statements from Indian Ministers but also about Indian interference in Pakistan, including continuing support for insurgency in Balochistan. India on the other hand has been repeating its traditional accusations of cross border terrorism while overlooking the decisive counter terrorism campaign launched by Pakistan in the past 2 years. To address these acrimonious concerns the two sides agreed that the National Security Advisers of the two countries would meet, first in New Delhi and then in Islamabad.
The two Prime Ministers agreed that cooperation in promoting religious tourism will help ameliorate the difficulties faced by our Zaireen. Early release of fishermen is a humanitarian gesture.
On Mumbai trial case, our view has been, and was so in this meeting as well, that we need more evidence and information to conclude the trial. The reference to ‘additional information’ is a recognition of the need that more information is needed to expedite the trial. Mr. Nawaz Sharif also sought information on the progress made on the trial of Samjhauta express terrorist incident. Issues of bilateral trade also came up. All these issues will now be followed up through different channels.
Let me conclude by presenting to you the bigger picture. For Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, peaceful neighbourhood is the centre-piece of his foreign policy vision. Why, because this would best promote our national interests and also create the conditions wherein the government can focus its resources on the socio-economic uplift of our people. People are at the centre of all that a democratically elected government must do. Our supreme national interests, underpinned by a robust defence capability and socio-economic welfare of the people of Pakistan, guide the foreign and security policy agenda of the present government. Let me reaffirm that our reach out to our neighbours and constructive engagement with the rest of the world is predicated on our firm commitment to protect our security and promote our national interests. May Allah be our guide.