South Asia

Full Text: Interview with Imran Khan’s NSA on Kashmir, Uighurs, Jadhav, Terror and Talks

Moeed Yusuf said that India has sent a message expressing a desire for talks with Pakistan.

Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to a special interview for The Wire, supported by Glenlivet Books. Today, we present an exclusive interview from Islamabad on India-Pakistan relations. My guest is the Pakistan prime minister’s advisor on national security and strategic policy planning, Moeed Yusuf. This is Dr. Yusuf’s first interview to the Indian media, it’s also the first interview by any official in Pakistan after the constitution changes in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.

Dr. Yusuf, let’s start with August 2019. Why is Pakistan so worked up by the internal constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir? First of all, this is a strictly internal Indian matter – it’s of no concern to Pakistan – and secondly, you’re reported to be attempting something very similar in Gilgit Baltistan.

Moeed Yusuf: Thank you for having me on your show, Karan. So, let’s take these separately – because GB is a separate issue, I’ll come to that. As far as the 5th of August, 2019 is concerned, quite frankly, India scored an own-goal. You know, there was never a doubt what the Kashmiris of occupied Kashmir believed in – what they thought of India – but, if there was any doubt left, it’s gone now.

Don’t accept what I’m saying; Farooq Abdullah came to your programme very recently – I heard him, what did he say? ‘No Kashmiri sees him or herself as Indian, they’d much rather be ruled by Chinese’ – of course, he couldn’t say Pakistan, he has to survive in India – but, the Chinese. What does the ICJ report saying? What is Yashwant Sinha’s report saying? The world is calling India out. Karan, that’s the reality. Kashmiris can’t bear the thought of being Indian. Kashmiri Hindustan se nafrat kartein hain, Karan – and, when that’s the reality, what internal arrangement are you talking about?

KT: But see, you’re confusing two things. Whatever the Kashmiri feeling toward India may be is another matter; but what has happened –

MY: No, no! *chuckles*

KT: – is an internal constitutional change. It doesn’t affect Pakistan in any way, it doesn’t affect the UN referendum or plebiscite requirement in any way. It’s internal – it’s simply a constitutional, administrative measure and precisely the same thing is being –

MY: Let me correct you, Karan.

KT: – talked about for –

MY: Let me correct.

KT: – Gilgit Baltistan.

MY: Let me correct you. If India’s taking a stance that its actions of August 5th – a permanent change to the territory which is disputed – if India is arguing that a forced domicile law, change of demography of that territory, is not against the UN Charter, well, India is then priding itself at being a rogue state, Karan. Let me tell you why. The UN Charter and the UN resolutions are very clear; India’s never obeyed them, but now you have formally stated you’re going to violate them. And, let me also tell you, your foreign minister was very recently – I think last year, perhaps – in the US. I heard him say that India will now resolve all its problems unilaterally. So, let me tell you what’s happening, it’s very important –

KT: Let me come back to this point –

MY: Just give me one second.

KT: Let me come back –

MY: Karan, one second –

KT: One quick point –

MY: Let me just finish –

KT: You made –

MY: Karan, just let me finish –

KT: – a point of talking –

MY: No, no, no –

KT: – about demographic changes. Pakistan has been making demographic changes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, by bringing in Punjabi settlers, for decades –

MY: No –

KT:  – At the moment, what demographic changes happen, it’s only made possible by the domicile law and, secondly, this is equally important – if you can change the administrative structure of Gilgit Baltistan, India can certainly do the same in Jammu and Kashmir.

MY: Karan. Karan, I told you I’ll come to Gilgit Baltistan but let me just finish this topic. You know, there are three levels – you know, I have a background in scholarship. There are three levels at which the state can operate in the international community of nations. There’s the multilateral international, which is the UN – we know what India thinks of the UN resolutions, we know what India said about the plebiscite after going to the UN itself and then pulling back from it. The second level is bilateral; for years, for decades since 1972 – Shimla, India told the world it’s a bilateral matter – we’ll use Shimla. What happened on the 5th of August? A unilateral decision that Shimla explicitly says you cannot do. And don’t take my words for it, take A.G. Noorani’s words – what did he say in a recent article? “The foul deeds of August 5th destroyed the Shimla agreement, or the Shimla pact, totally.” And the third level is unilateral; you’ve done something unilateral, when you did something unilateral you had to bring in a 180,000 troops, lie to the world that there was a terrorist threat, and then you perpetrated – Indian government perpetrated – terrorism on the 5th of August –

KT: Can I respond?

MY: – And then, a year later –

KT: Can I respond?

MY: – You had to impose curfew –

KT: Dr. Yusuf –

MY: – And when you say, Karan, that the –

KT: You must let me respond –

MY: – wishes of the people don’t matter, that’s where you go wrong.

KT: You began, first of all –

MY: All that matters is the wishes of the people.

KT: Dr. Yusuf, you must let me respond. You began, first of all, by referring to the UN requirements of a plebiscite – that is conditioned by a Pakistani withdrawal which didn’t happen. So, let’s be honest –

MY: *chuckles*

KT: – the first step was from your side, it didn’t happen, that’s why the plebiscite didn’t never happened. Secondly, you’re talking about the world believing that India has done the wrong thing – with the exception of Turkey and Malaysia, no other country supports Pakistan’s position on 370. In fact, you’re aware better than me that your attempt to create a special OIC meeting annoyed the Saudis and has strained your relationship with them. Actually, your obsession with Kashmir is becoming an own goal against yourself.

MY: You’re actually packing too many questions so I’m going to write so I don’t forget. So, Karan, first of all, here is where India goes wrong – the only thing that matters is the wishes of the people because the UN resolutions are about the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris – you don’t believe me? And, I’ll come to GB now – you think what I’m saying about occupied Kashmir is wrong? Even though everybody on your programme, in New York Times and The Economist have said what they have to say? Let’s hold a UN-administered plebiscite tomorrow. Let’s bring the UN in, ask them what needs to be done –

KT: You’re changing the subject –

MY: Just do it.

KT: We’re not talking about a UN plebiscite, we’re talking about the fact that Pakistan – for reasons that have no warranty or justification – is finding fault with India’s internal decision to change the constitutional arrangements in Jammu and Kashmir. You’ve done the same in Gilgit Baltistan. Secondly, you’ve been changing the demography of P0K by bringing in Punjabi settlers for decades – that hasn’t happened in India.

MY: Yeah. So, let me come to the Pakistan side by adding just one sentence to what I was saying. The day India recognises that only the wishes of people – of Kashmiris – matter, this issue can be resolved. And today, Karan, I sit here, on the instructions of my prime minister, to talk to you about the future – to talk to you how we can move forward, how we can get over our problems, not to litigate the past.

But since you’re there, Gilgit Baltistan – first of all, no decision has been made. What is happening in Gilgit Baltistan? There’s a public debate? Yes. Why is there a public debate? For the polar opposite reason to what is happening in Illegally Occupied Kashmir. What’s the reason? People of Gilgit Baltistan want to be fully integrated into Pakistan – that is the reason of this public debate. Now –

KT: Can I interrupt you?

MY: – what is Pakistan’s response?

Indus River at Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan region. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

KT: I have to interrupt you because you’ve made, I think, according to your papers, a factual error. Dawn, one of Pakistan’s best-known papers, on the 22nd of September, reported that at a meeting with several senior cabinet ministers present, members of the PPP, and the army chief a decision was taken to confer provincial status on Gilgit Baltistan. And that was confirmed to Dawn thereafter by your railway minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and by the minister in charge of Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan affairs, Ali Amin Gandapur. I’m quoting Dawn! They say the decision –

MY: My friend. My friend, the proof is in the pudding. If it was so confirmed and so done, where is the act? Now, please let me finish this answer. You asked me two or three times, I want to clarify this. One, no decision has been made; two, there is a public debate – the public debate is not being generated by the Government of Pakistan, it’s being generated by the people of Gilgit Baltistan. They’ve been saying this for two or three years now. What are they saying? ‘We want to be fully integrated with Pakistan.’ Now, you tell me, Karan, if a people is not treated well, would they ever want that? I’ve never heard the Kashmiri Muslims talk about this in the occupied territories –

KT: You’re deliberately missing the point.

MY: Third, whatever –

KT: Just as you say –

MS: Sorry, Karan just let me finish.

KT: Just as you say the people of Gilgit Baltistan –

MS: Karan, this is not fair. You ask me a question, you don’t let me finish.

KT: – people of Ladakh wanted to be separated from Jammu and Kashmir, they wanted union territory status as well, they asked for it.

MY: Karan, not fair. You asked me a question, let me finish – please have the patience to hear me out. The third part of that is most important. Whatever decision is ultimately taken will be within the framework of the UN Security Council resolutions. If the resolutions bar permanent change of territorial status, there will be no permanent change – and there may be no change. This is a debate, this is how democratic societies debate; democratic societies, by the way, Karan, do not bring in a 180,000 troops to change the status of a territory. That’s the difference between Pakistan and India right now.

KT: Let me repost to some of the things you’ve said. First of all, you said the change in Gilgit Baltistan is happening because the people have requested it – that is equally true of Ladakh, the people of Ladakh have been wanting to be separated from Jammu and Kashmir for decades, they wanted union territory status, they’ve now got it. So, the same criteria apply in both instances. Secondly –

MY: Within the constraints of the UN.

KT: You have to let me finish, you have to let me finish.

MY: Sure.

KT: Secondly, you said that, in fact, what is happening is not a violation of the Shimla agreement in the case of Gilgit Baltistan, it is, you claim, a violation of Shimla in the case of Jammu and Kashmir. Actually, it’s the same thing happening on both sides; you are changing the nature of the –

MY: But nothing has happened!

KT: You’re changing the nature –

MY: Nothing has happened! 5th of August has happened. In Pakistan there’s a public debate – and one thing I can guarantee you on your programme – whenever that debate settles, there will be no question of going outside any multilateral or bilateral framework that Pakistan has agreed to.

KT: Doctor, when you say nothing has happened –

MY: Karan, that’s the difference.

KT: – you’re forgetting the fact –

MY: Karan, that –

KT: – that changing the provincial nature of Gilgit Baltistan is a campaign promise of Imran Khan’s party. Mr. Gandapur had said so, I’m quoting Mr. Gandapur, just listen to the minister –

MY: Yeah, you quote him.

KT: “Our government has decided to deliver on the promise it made to the people there.” He’s saying so, it’s a campaign promise –

MY: The promise made to people in Gilgit Baltistan is to ensure that they get more development, even more rights within the framework of the UN Security Council resolution. If the UN Security Council resolutions allow the word ‘provisional’ to be added, maybe the public debate goes there; if it doesn’t allow it, it won’t go there. Karan, we are talking of Kashmir, right? This is a disputed territory, internationally recognised –

KT: Both sides of it! Both sides of it! Do not forget to include PoK-Gilgit Baltistan; it’s disputed, India believes –

MY: Absolutely. It will be included in the plebiscite the day the plebiscite happens. My map, behind me, Pakistan’s official political map, all of it in one colour for that very reason. Now, you’ve talked of Kashmir, but Karan, let me say one thing – this is no longer, unfortunately, an India focused on Pakistan doing things that are illegal and wrong. Unfortunately, we are now seeing – at least, sitting on this side of the border – we are seeing an ideology that you –who knows better than you? –

KT: Forgive me, just a moment –

MY: – We’ve seen expansionism –

KT: Just a moment! Before you start branching into an ideology and making claims, like your Prime Minister has made with the UN, that Mr. Modi –

MY: Karan, you’ve written about it! For god sakes, you’ve written about it.

KT: Let’s not become polemical, let’s stick to details –

MY: No!

KT: – otherwise, we –

MY: No, no I was going to –

KT: – will not have a discussion, we will have a tu tu, main main which will serve no one’s purpose.

MY: No, no I’m here to talk of the future.

KT: Let me come back to the issue –

MY: Let’s talk of the future, let’s talk peace.

KT: I will definitely talk to you about the future –

MY: Let’s talk peace.

KT: – but let’s talk about the present first.

MY: Okay.

KT: Let’s come back to Article 370. I want to point out the paradox. One, while Article 370 existed, Pakistan dismissed it as a sham. Your high commissioners repeatedly refused to meet the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir – they wouldn’t recognise them. Now that Article 370 has been scrapped, you’re clamouring for its restoration. You seem to be contradicting yourselves.

MY: First of all, Karan, Pakistan does not recognise – cannot recognise – Article 370 because Pakistan’s quarrel is with the actual instrument of accession; an instrument of accession that was signed under duress –

KT: *chuckles* You’ve just given the game away. If you can’t recognise 370, why worry when it’s scrapped? Why make such a protest about its scrapping? That’s the point I’m making.

MY: Oh, it’s not my issue. I’m not making a protest about 370, let’s be clear –

KT: Your government is.

MY: No, no not at all. Show me one place where we’ve said 370 good or bad. We are raising an issue because you have formally gone outside the UN Charter and the resolutions by making a permanent change in the territory I rightfully claim as mine, to people who can’t bear the thought of being under Indian occupation. That’s my quarrel. My quarrel is the domicile law which is thrusting people on a Muslim-majority territory to change its character.

KT: Dr. Yusuf, everything you’re saying will apply to Gilgit Baltistan – a campaign manifesto promise of your government, a commitment made in public by your railway minister and the Kashmir minister to the Dawn newspaper – you can apply your arguments to yourself. What I’m saying is –

MY: So, I’ve said two things to you, Karan –

KT: You’re picking on this because you want to have a quarrel over Kashmir, you’re just finding a new reason to extend it, that’s all.

MY: Karan, you started the topic of Kashmir, I didn’t ask you to start it. We’re going to end it at this – number one, I promise you when a decision is taken on Gilgit Baltistan, I will be back on your programme to debate that, for now, I can tell you, you’re reading too much into whatever you’ve read. Second, let me tell you one other thing – and I say this formally, as a friend – I can say whatever I want and you’ll tell me whatever you want, we’ll continue to litigate the past; I want you to come. I honestly, I formally invite you on behalf of the Pakistan government, come over, I’ll be your guest – I’ll be your host, you want to go on your own, you want to be chaperoned – whatever you want – travel the length and breadth of Gilgit Baltistan, talk to people –

KT: That’s very kind of you but can I –

MY: Come over.

KT: – bring you back to the interview. Let’s not get deflected –

MY: No, no, I’m being serious, I’m being serious. Come over, bring whoever you want but please request –

KT: Dr. Yusuf, this is an interview not about your inviting me to Pakistan – it’s generous and kind of you to do so, I visited your country many times –

MY: Please do come, it’ll be a pleasure to host you.

KT: I’ve interviewed many of your democratically elected prime ministers, I’ve interviewed many of your military dictators. So, I know your country well. But let’s come back to the issue at hand, which is the reason why we’re having this interview. I want to point out another strange paradox; at the UN, when Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks about Kashmir, he accuses India of genocide, he accuses India of what he calls ‘wanting a final solution’ – yet he hasn’t got a word to say about what’s happening to the Uighurs in China where newspaper reports and television reports suggest that perhaps a million are under detention. How come he’s concerned about the plight, as he calls it, of Muslims in Kashmir and ignoring completely what is happening to Uighurs – which is much, much worse – in China?

MY: So, Karan, first of all, you’ve said something very important that I want to take a minute on. You said this interview is about, what we’re talking about, you’ve talked to Pakistani prime ministers and Pakistani military leaders – this is the problem. We can’t talk about the future, we can’t re-imagine this region until India updates its narrative on Pakistan.

Pakistan’s had many problems, India’s had many problems, every developing country has problems. I am here to talk to you about the Pakistan of today, and let me tell you why I am insisting that I want to talk peace with you, I want to talk the future with you – that’s why my prime minister’s asked me to sit here, not to litigate the past. Why? Karan, I sit in this office, you introduced me –

KT: I promise you we will have a lot of time to talk about the future, I’m very keen on that. But let’s first –

MY: Okay, okay, then I’ll go to your question, then I’ll go to your question. No problem.

KT: Why is Imran Khan so exercised about what he claims is a genocide in Kashmir –

MY: I’ll go to your question –

KT: – when actually, nothing of the sort is happening. Why is he ignoring the mistreatment, maltreatment, and horrible treatment – I’m using all three deliberately – of the Uighurs in China where perhaps a million are in detention centres?

MY: So, first of all, why is he saying what he’s saying about India? Frankly, India’s left us with no choice. Pakistani leaders have constantly tried to find a way forward; this prime minister, my prime minister, came into office saying what? “India takes one step, I will take two steps.” Unfortunately, since that day India’s been running in the opposite direction. Forget Pakistan, tell me one neighbour that you get along with today – and this is a change over the past year. You’re in a war with China, Nepal stood up to you, Bangladesh – your closest ally – is talking to our prime minister and saying things I don’t want to repeat. You know, this is why we have been left with no choice, Karan. And now, let’s go to the Uighurs.

KT: Dr. Yusuf, can I make a point here –

MY: No, no Uighurs, Uighurs – let me answer –

KT: I am hearing you –

MY: You asked about the Uighurs –

KT: You’re justifying Imran Khan’s claim of genocide and final solution? Are you forgetting that no Pakistani politician – not just prime minister, no Pakistani politician – knows India better than Imran Khan. He’s visited this country multiple times –

MY: Karan, and that’s why –

KT: He knows that there is no genocide happening. If any Pakistani knows it from experience of India, he does. Which is why I asked you how come he’s making such an issue of what doesn’t happen in Kashmir and ignoring what is happening with the Uighurs –

A concentration camp in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter

MY: Unfortunately –

KT: Please tell me about the Uighurs –

MY: You know, this is why he is talking the way he is talking because he knew the India of yesteryear. The problem is Pakistan has changed, India doesn’t recognise it, India has changed and the world has recognised it. That’s why he’s so frustrated and, mind you, this genocide business – the fourth Geneva convention applies to occupied territories and we can go article by article, look at the western press and tell you, and tell me, what India’s violated – leave that aside.

I want to answer Uighurs because I know you’re asking about that, I don’t want to leave here without talking about that. First of all, it’s false equivalence; the prime minister of Pakistan who, by the way, every meeting I’ve sat in talks peace; the Pakistani army chief talks peace – do you know what your army chief and air chief have been saying about Pakistan? What they’ve been saying about a two-front situation –

KT: Stick to the Uighurs, you were explaining the Uighurs. You’ve come to Pakistan and India. Stick to the Uighurs.

MY: Coming to that. First of all, it’s false equivalence. The prime minister of Pakistan is talking about a territory Pakistan rightfully claims as its. It’s talking about a disputed territory which India and Pakistan have to resolve.

KT: Let me answer it for you –

MY: I’m not talking to you about Assam, I’m not talking to you about Delhi, this is a completely different issue because it’s a disputed territory –

KT: Let me explain –

MY: I have the right to talk about the territory I claim as mine. Now –

KT: Dr. Yusuf, let me explain to you why Imran Khan won’t talk about the Uighurs, I’ll quote Imran Khan to you, this is what he said to the British paper The Financial Times last year, I’m quoting him, “Frankly, I don’t know much about it. If I had enough knowledge about it I would comment but I don’t.” In other words, ignorance, he says – he admits – is preventing him from commenting. You’re there, you’re his national security advisor, in effect, why don’t you fill his ears with the truth? Why don’t you tell him what’s happening so he can speak?

MY: His ears are totally filled with the truth, and I have known this issue because I am the person who’s supposed to be advising him, he’s a strategic thinker, and, quite frankly, if your leadership were to get out of the tactical security mindset and think strategically we’d move forward. But, here is what I will tell you, Karan, China and Pakistan are friends like none other. We have a completely transparent relationship, virtually everything under the sky we discuss. Uighurs is a non-issue –

KT: So, Imran has turned a blind eye to the Uighurs –

MY: Uighurs –

KT: – that’s what you’re saying.

MY: Let me just answer, Karan.

KT: Go ahead.

MY: Even our delegations have visited, we have seen, and we are a 100% satisfied that it’s a non-issue. The West can say what it wants. I am telling you as a responsible official, we know everything we need to know about the Uighurs and everything else in China as they do about us. We have zero concerns, absolutely zero concerns.

KT: That’s not what Imran Khan said to The Financial Times last year. He said, “Frankly, I don’t know much about it.” You say you know everything. If you know everything –

MY: Of course!

KT: – and there’s nothing happening –

MY: Karan, I’m the person who is supposed to know everything and he is not the person who is supposed to dabble in tactics. He knows everything now, he’s fully briefed; I knew even then, I wasn’t in office when this interview happened, if I was I would say the same thing – non-issue. Clearly, we are 100% satisfied with our Chinese friends, full stop.

KT: I will accept your answer because I think it’s interesting. If you had been in office when Imran Khan gave the interview to The Financial Times you would have ensured that your prime minister was well-informed and couldn’t plead ignorance.

MY: It’s a non-issue! It never comes up because it’s just not an issue. He doesn’t waste time on non-issues.

KT: You know, Imran Khan didn’t say it’s a non-issue, Imran Khan didn’t say – as you said a moment ago – “I’ve checked, everything is okay,” because he could have easily have said that. What he said was, “I don’t know, which is why I can’t comment on it.” He pleaded ignorance as his defence.

MY: Well, we go back and we go forth. I am telling you very simply, there’s not an issue there, we’re totally satisfied, we and China talk about everything without a problem, there’s nothing to be discussed there. Not a word more on this is needed.

KT: Let’s then move beyond Kashmir. Let’s come to other areas which I think are critical before I talk about what you and both want to talk about – how do we go forward?

MY: Sure.

KT: The first area I want to take up is Kulbhushan Jadhav. The International Court of Justice has ruled that Pakistan must give India consular access. Why are you not willing to give unimpeded and unconditional consular access? Why do you insist that a Pakistani official is always present? Why do you insist on recording the meeting? And on one occasion, you even objected to the conversation happening in Marathi because, apparently, none of your officials can understand the language. Why can you not give unimpeded, unconditional access?

MY: Karan, I think you haven’t been updated on the case. So, let me tell you where we are. The ICJ had three binding observations – number one, consular access; number two, review and reconsideration; and number three, halt the execution. Two consular accessees, unimpeded, have been given; the third one has been offered for long and Kulbhushan Jadhav – the agent of terror in Pakistan – said, “I want to pursue the mercy petition.” The Government of India was asked, and we’re still waiting for a response, because the Government of India said, “We want an Indian lawyer.” Now, Pakistani law – just like Indian law, it does not allow –

KT: Let’s take these one-by-one so people can understand. Let’s not mix up three issues as one, let’s stick to the consular access.

MY: Yeah.

KT: The Indian government’s position, repeated frequently, is that you have not given unimpeded and unconditional access – you’ve always insisted that a Pakistan official is present, you’ve always insisted that the meeting and the conversation is recorded and I’m asking you why. Why cannot you allow the Indian diplomats to meet with Kulbhushan Jadhav without your presence?

MY: First, you may want to check what Kulbhushan Jadhav thinks. You know what, Karan? It’s very odd but the guy feels distressed by being dumped by his own country and government when this started. He is the one who said, “I’m not going to hand over rights to decide who’s going to represent me to the Government of India.” The Government of India and Kulbhushan Jadhav have the right – there is an offer on the table for the third counsel access. That’s what we were bound to do, we’ve done it and you know what the answer is?

KT: You’re once again, very cleverly, confusing issues. You’re not answering my question –

MY: I’m talking of counsel access, what am I confusing? I’m talking of counsel access –

KT: – instead of answering that, you’re claiming that Kulbhushan Jadhav does not want to be represented by the Indians – that’s your claim. We have no way of confirming it, you’re saying it, we don’t have access to verify it.

MY: No, no, no you are confused. These are two separate things. One is, who files and appoints the lawyer – the ask on the Indian side, knowing that it’s not possible in common law countries, India’s law is the same as Pakistan’s – they’re saying, “Give us an Indian lawyer.” Our courts and our law doesn’t allow that, so a law can’t be changed for a spy. The second thing they’re asking is –

KT: Whoa, whoa, whoa stop there –

MY: “Give us the chargesheet –

KT: Let’s, let’s –

MY: Just let me finish, at least –

KT: Let’s take them one-by-one because it’s easier for audiences to follow.

MY: I’m talking of counsel access, I’m talking of counsel access –

KT: On the lawyer point, you’re forgetting that as far back as April 2017, the Lahore High Court Bar Association said that any Pakistani lawyer who defends Kulbhushan Jadhav will be taken action against. Which is why none of your country’s lawyers are willing to defend him and secondly, and this is more important, secondly, the Secretary-General of the Lahore High Court Bar Association – a gentleman called Amir Saeed Rawn – actually went on record to say the government must hang Jadhav. How can a lawyer who wants Jadhav hanged actually defend him? He’s already found him guilty, he wants him punished instead.

MY: You know, Bar Associations, and civil society, and whatever will have views – it’s a very emotive issue for us, understand. A serving naval officer of another country was spying, and plotting, and has been instrumental in killing our countrymen. So, people have emotions, I mean, that’s just natural. But what is the law doing –

KT: Which is why a Pakistani lawyer will not be fair! Which is why the Indians are saying if you don’t want an Indian, accept a British QC. That’s a third country’s lawyer.

MY: *chuckles* Karan, I’m sorry, India’s been caught with its pants down – we can spin this whichever way we want. We are a responsible, law-abiding country; ICJ has asked for three things, all three have been provided –

KT: No!

MY: – We are following it to the T –

KT: No!

MY: If you have a problem, the law is there, the law will take its course –

KT: Forgive me, Dr. Yusuf –

MY: Let the case run.

KT: Dr. Yusuf, you have not complied with all three. You have not complied with the need for unimpeded and unconditional consular access. We’ve discussed that, let’s not go back –

MY: We absolutely have.

KT: The second thing you haven’t complied with is the ICJ requirement for an effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and the sentencing of Jadhav. You will not give the Indian side access to all the documents. Without those documents –

MY: You may have seen –

KT: – how do you have an effective review and reconsideration? So, once again, you have not complied.

MY: You may or may not have seen a special ordinance – a review and reconciliation ordinance that’s been passed by Pakistan – it’s called the ‘ICJ Review and Reconsideration Ordinance’, as specific as that. Now, skin about the chargesheet and the documents. You know, there is a law – in Pakistan, like in India, there’s a court procedure and judges sit atop and follow that. According to that, you’ve got to appoint a lawyer – same in India – before you can get access to those documents. India and Kulbhushan Jadhav are dragging their feet on appointing a lawyer. You appoint a lawyer, has to be a Pakistani lawyer, appoint the lawyer and get the documents.

KT: The Lahore Bar Association laid down, three years ago –

MY: Again, going back to bar association and civil society. I’m talking about the court of law.

KT: And secondly –

MY: I’m talking of the court of law.

KT: And secondly, the bar association has already called for the hanging of the man which suggests that any lawyer, even if he’s willing, will not be a fair and credible attorney –

MY: People can –

KT: So how do you appoint a credible lawyer when they’ve already decided, in advance, the man is guilty?

MY: People can call for what they want, I’m talking to you about the state of Pakistan and the court of law. And we’ve been following to the T what we’ve been asked to do. India is now having to do certain things it know will affect its case negatively, it’s dragging its feet. Appoint a lawyer, get documents, get on with it. Those documents, if it were up to me – and, of course, I am a responsible official who would never do it – I’d put it in public because whatever shame is left on the Indian side will disappear after that.

KT: Alright, you insist that you have complied with the requirements of the ICJ, I am pointing out to you that neither have you made the documents available in full – without those documents it’s very difficult –

MY: Appoint a lawyer and get the documents.

KT: Secondly, I’m pointing out to you that unimpeded, unconditional consular access has not been given – you insist on having an official present –

MY: It’s done. We are waiting for the third counsel access offer to be taken.

KT: It’s unlikely to be taken, I imagine – except I’m speaking for myself – if the same conditions apply. If you are going to monitor and record it, then the conversation is not a privileged conversation, It’s one to which you’re party and privy and, clearly, in those circumstances, Kulbhushan Jadhav will not want to speak freely because you’ll be listening and he might be scared of what punishment you might give him if he says something you don’t like. All of us can see that.

MY: I’ll only repeat one thing – the offer’s on the table, we followed the ICJ instructions, we hope India takes it; If India doesn’t, it’s up to them.

KT: Let’s move to a third subject, and this, from the Indian government’s point of view, is clearly the single biggest concern that India has about its relationship with Pakistan. The fact that Pakistani governments repeatedly refused to take action against Pakistani citizens who are involved in undertaking terror operations in India; and I will only cite one example, not a whole litany of them, just one – the Bombay killings of 2008, November 2008, which Tariq Khosa, your former director-general of the Federal Investigation Agency, said were planned and launched from Pakistan. Planned and launched from Pakistan. And, if you want, I’ll cite the evidence he reported in the Dawn on the 3rd of August 2015, if you want – I won’t at the moment, but if you want. The Indian –

MY: – on my mind. Karan, I apologise.

KT: – and you’ve taken no action against anyone to bring them to justice. How do you account for that?

MY: You do know that I’ve written a whole book on India-Pakistan crises, so no problem, I know exactly what he said, I know exactly what I said, I know exactly what the reality is now. But Karan, you’ve brought up an issue which has been a one-sided narrative for t least two decades now.

Post-9/11, I admit, India has been brilliant at going to the world, creating a story, selling it, and getting the world to point fingers at Pakistan. I’m going to answer your question, but you’ll have to indulge me on this one because I want to say something very important to you and to your audience. And have patience to listen to this because this is what I live through. Every day, Karan, I enter my office, and I’ll tell you what’s lying on my desk. You were talking of 2008, what, 11-12 years ago? I’m talking of today, Karan. When I say I want to talk about the present, I want to talk about positive things. I repeat, I’m sitting here to talk peace and, please, we shouldn’t end this interview without talking where we go.

KT: I’ve given you that promise, I will –

MY: Let me say, now –

KT: Please come back to explain to me why 12 years later, not a single Pakistani who was involved in what happened in Mumbai in 2008 – where over 160 people were killed, many of them American citizens – why has not one person been brought to justice. Not one.

MY: Don’t let me leave without answering this question point-blank –

KT: I promise you I won’t let you leave –

MY: But now, I ask –

KT: I promise you I won’t let you leave, I’m pushing you to answer me now.

MY: I’ll ask for two minutes before that because this is very important. Karan, the Pakistani Taliban – Pakistani Taliban, the TTP – have just merged with four other organisations – Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Harkat-ul-Ansar, and a couple of others. I’m revealing information to you which we have not done before but this will come out now regularly because this one-sided story will change.

Pakistan has changed, India has changed. 2019, the Indian embassy funds were used – more than a million US dollars – to effect the merger of the TTP. Congratulations to the R&AW, they’ve succeeded in creating an organisation to kill Pakistanis. The Army Public School attack 2014, Malik Faridoon – who masterminded this attack from Jalalabad – was in touch with handlers from the Indian consulate as Pakistan’s children – 144 people, children – were being massacred in broad daylight. The same person was treated in Delhi – I believe it’s the Primus Hospital or whatever you call it – in 2017. We have records of eight phone calls, we have records of phone numbers, we have records of handlers who orchestrated this entire thing sitting in a third country. India is –

KT: Can I interrupt at this point?

MY: Karan, I’m sorry, no –

KT: I’m not stopping you –

MY: No, Karan –

KT: I’ll let you speak, I’m just clarifying for the audience what you’re saying because I think it’s important, they should know what you’re doing. You’re saying, in response to my question – why has no one been brought to justice for 2008? – you’re saying that there are two instances where you believe India – you mentioned R&AW – has been involved in what you assessed, or assumed, to be terrorist-type operations.

Firstly, you said India was involved in the 2014 Army School attack – you say the handlers were in touch with the Indian consulate, you say you have the phone numbers of the handlers. And secondly, you say that one million dollars has been paid by the Indian embassy – I presume you mean in Afghanistan – to the TTP to help them merge with four militant terrorist groups – two of whom you name, two of whom you weren’t able to name. Is that what you’re saying?

MY: There’s Lashkar-e-Islam and others I can name –

KT: Are you replying to my question with a charge of terror against India? Is that what you’re doing?

MY: No, no, no, nope, nope. I am going to answer your question but I am first talking to you about today, not 12 years ago, and yes, I am laying out a very clear piece of evidence that has not been created in about five minutes after an attack saying, “Oh, Pakistan! Oh, this group!” We’ve spent our time and we have evidence to the T, and this will come out. Number three – I’m just giving you a teaser – India’s even embarrassing the Afghan government again and again. Your so-called partners. You’re using think tanks in Afghanistan as fronts to funnel money to Baloch terrorists in Pakistan to issue visas to Baloch terrorists, separatists to go to India and get treatment. We all know Afghanistan has gone through a very difficult time, they don’t have control over their full territory sometimes, you are taking advantage of that weakness and creating terror groups, funding terror groups, and using formal channels –

KT: Okay.

MY: And, you know, the world talks about – sorry, Karan, just let me finish, I’ll take one more minute. I know it’s difficult for you to hear.

KT: I’m very happy for you to finish, I’m simply pointing out to the audience that I asked you a question about why, even after 12 years, not a single of the accused in Pakistan has been brought to trial yet. You’re answering and levelling three fresh charges, you brought two earlier –

MY: It’s not three –

KT: Of Indian involvement in terror. This is not an answer to my question at all –

MY: My friend, trust me –

KT: This is not an answer to my question, it’s a whole new game you’re starting –

MY: No, it’s not –

KT: – an enhanced tu tu, main main.

MY: But I haven’t answered your question yet. I have promised, I’m going to come to that.

KT: Why don’t you?

MY: Just let me – let me just – I will. First I want to layout for your audience an eye-opener of what has been happening to Pakistan today. Now, let me just continue, the BLA commander who orchestrated the Chinese consulate attack – third country consulate, mind you – in Karachi, Aslam Achu, was in touch directly working with his R&AW handlers. Again, treated in New Delhi afterwards. The Gawadar Pearl Continental Hotel in Pakistan – the R&AW handlers in contact as the attack was going on. R&AW handlers in another third country.

KT: Clearly –

MY: The Pakistan Stock Exchange –

KT: Clearly, as the Pakistan prime minister’s effective national security advisor, you will have access to details, and you’re giving them to me, and I don’t – as a journalist – have the position to be able to question whether this is the truth or a lie. What I can point out –

MY: I’m just giving you a teaser, there are heaps and heaps of papers.

KT: I can point out the following – first of all, how come you’re choosing to reveal it today, on this interview, why haven’t you made it public earlier? If this is so important, and some of this detail you believe so good, and the evidence so clinching – how come you’ve sat on it for so long?

MY: Yeah.

KT: Secondly, have you raised these issues with the Indian government? Thirdly, have you brought this to the attention of the world? Because if this is the case, how come Imran Khan – who spends two-thirds of his UN speech castigating and denigrating both Mr. Modi and India – didn’t mention any of this. This would have been very powerful to mention at the UN, he was completely silent. I get the feeling that anticipating, in advance, the time you’d bring up terror and, in particular, 2008, you’ve come up with all of this – I don’t know how truthful it is or not – but you’ve come up with all this to deflect, to switch the conversation away from answering my question about Pakistan’s failure to tackle the people who carry out terror against India and, instead, accuse India of terror.

MY: Let’s –

KT: It’s a deflection –

MY: Let’s assume. Karan, let’s assume I’m deflecting, that doesn’t change the reality. I am –

KT: But I’d like you to answer the question.

MY: – giving you hard evidence, and let me answer your question of why not before? This is just a teaser, investigations take time, I’ve given you episodes which have happened this year and late last year. This is the difference between India and Pakistan. I remember as a scholar we used to sit and analyse terrorist attacks of violence in the region and five minutes into a terror attack –

KT: We don’t want to get into a childish tu, tu main main, certainly not an Indian-Pakistani version of it because our two countries are very prone to that. But I’ll just point out –

MY: This is not a version. Karan, this is not a version *waves paper* –

KT: When you say investigations take time, you’re talking about –

MY: I am giving you hard evidence.

KT: You’re talking about the 2014 Army Public School attack which is six years ago. For six years you’ve been building up this body of information and hiding it from the world, not just from India.

MY: Sorry, not hiding it from the world –

KT: You haven’t even revealed this to your own countrymen. Your papers don’t have this information, your journalists don’t have it, your fellow politicians in the opposition don’t have it. The only one who seems to have it is you, your office, and your prime minister –

MY: My friend –

KT: How come you haven’t revealed this to the world and to your own country?

MY: My friend, first of all, Pakistan – and the Pakistani army chief actually travelled to Afghanistan shortly after this attack, taking evidence that we had, raw evidence at the time. But this is the difference between Pakistan and India – these investigations have to be so thorough that when you put these out, there is not a question left about their veracity. What is the opposite model?

KT: Dr. Yusuf –

MY: Karan, what is the opposite model?

KT: Why aren’t your own journalists aware of it, why aren’t your opposition leaders aware of it, why aren’t your papers and television channels talking about it, why isn’t the world made aware of it? How come this is being made available exclusively to me? I’m honoured and flattered –

MY: You should be –

KT: – but how come?

MY: You should be very happy that you’re the first one. When I formally put out a list, there is heaps of paper and they are coming. So now, what time we chose we can debate. This is our choosing, there’s a reason. The model on the other side is five minutes into a violent attack – number one, Pakistan; number two, this group; number three, that happened and five years later, ten years later –

KT: If you’re referring to Pulwama, you’re forgetting the fact that the Jaish-e-Mohammad, formally – by tweet – accepted responsibility.

MY: *laughs*

KT: – five minutes into the attack they accepted responsibility, they put out a tweet. You know that, I know that –

MY: Karan, not you –

KT: Let’s not deflect –

MY: Okay Pulwama –

KT: Back to my question, you promised five times you’d answer it, you’ve taken a good seven-eight minutes to give me other answers, let’s come back to this.

MY: I’m back –

KT: How come –

MY: I’m back, I know your question.

KT: How come, in 2008, when Tariq Khosa publicly accepted in Dawn that the attack was launched from and planned in Pakistan. And, as I said, I’ve got every other bit of detail he’s written about here, with me, so, if you want, I’ll give it to you, I’m only holding –

MY: Very good, don’t need it, don’t need it. You’ve raised Mumbai –

KT: – against anyone, answer that for me.

MY: You’ve raised Mumbai, and you’ve raised Pulwama. One at a time. Mumbai, seven terrorists, accused, were hauled in and arrested – I think it was the 7th of December or something – within a week or ten days of the attack. I remember because I actually wrote about this in detail. 129 witnesses were identified.

Security personnel inspect the site of suicide bomb attack in Pulwama district, on February 15, 2019. Credit: PTI

KT: Can I give you your own facts?

MY: Karan, now let me tell you what’s happened. You’ve asked me a question, I’m answering, and now you don’t want an answer.

KT: But you’re beginning at the wrong point. What you’re forgetting is that every one of those seven accused was released on bail, some of them are now untraceable – as your government itself admits – others, are said to be living in ISI safe-houses. And we’re talking about key people like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Yusuf Mujammil, Sajid Mir. If you keep them in ISI safe-houses, or if you let them become untraceable after giving them bail, do you know what the impression in India is? You’re not prosecuting them, you’re protecting them.

MY: Karan, you’ve asked me a question, you’ll never get an answer if you keep interrupting me. Let me say what I have to say and then we can have a conversation, I am here for as long as you want. 129 witnesses, 27 of them were Indian, 2012 and ’13 Pakistan’s investigation commission visited, not given access to the crime scene, not given access to the prosecution witnesses, the case moves on, common law countries. You talk about samjhauta, you talk about Babri Masjid – decades afterwards you get a result and there was no cross-border investigation or evidence required. Here, you require evidence from across the border –

KT: Come back to Mumbai 2008, and the fact that –

MY: I’m talking of Mumbai, I’m talking of Mumbai!

KT: – out on bail, they are untraceable, or they are living in ISI safe-houses. They’re under your protection, you’re not prosecuting them –

MY: Karan, you’ve already said it.

KT: Come back to that.

MY: You’ve already said this, you’ve already said this.

KT: But you haven’t answered it.

MY: I am answering, just give me a second, you’ll get the answer, my friend. No need to be frazzled, I’m going to I’ve you an answer, it’s not what you’re going to like. Evidence was required from India and to this day, the conversation about the 27 witnesses continues, just as of this year, India asked, “Oh, we can’t send the witnesses, let them do video-con.” The Islamabad high court rejected it, common law countries again – not allowed. 90 days were asked and given for India to send these people, and by the way, that time is coming up on the 21st of October.

KT: You’ve veered off into Pulwama, stick to 2008. You’re confusing the two, stick to one.

MY: Karan, Karan please, please, please listen to what I’m saying. I’m talking of 2008 Mumbai attacks. I’m giving you the sequence of the Mumbai attacks trial, not Pulwama.

KT: Let me tell you –

MY: Listen –

KT: Let me –

MY: Listen, please listen.

KT: Since this is a subject on which you say you’re an authority, let me remind you what Tariq Khosa wrote in Dawn on the 3rd of August, 2015. I think it’s important you should hear it. He said, first of all, LeT were imparted training near Thatta in Sindh; secondly, the casings of the explosive devices used in Mumbai were recovered from this training camp; thirdly, the engine of the dingy used by the terrorists was traced by its patent number to have been imported from Japan to Lahore, and then to a Karachi sports shop where the LeT purchased it.

More importantly, the operations room in Karachi from where the operation was directed was identified, the alleged commander and his deputies were identified and arrested, foreign-based financiers were arrested. Everything originated in Pakistan and was done by Pakistanis. The evidence is there with you, you don’t need others to give you the evidence and, by the way Tariq Khosa accepts that – it’s not me saying it, it’s him. He’s your Federal Investigation Agency’s director and he’s written in a Pakistani paper Dawn.

MY: Can I answer?

KT: Please.

MY: Okay, if it were a media trial, we’d come out with whatever conclusion anybody wants. If you talk about bails, then you should also know, as an Indian, as a common law country, why bails are given. You say we don’t need any evidence, well the crime scene is not in Pakistan. You say everything originated in Pakistan, not at all – there are books written on this now – the complacency of the Indian state is also in question but leave that aside, I don’t want to go there.

KT: Yusuf –

MY: You have just quoted Tariq Khosa –

KT: You mustn’t assume that I’m ignorant –

MY: Karan, let me finish. Just one answer. Can I get just one answer in?

KT: You’re forgetting the number of times the judges was changed in that case – six or seven times. You’re forgetting what the Americans said, that Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, when he was in custody, before he was given bail, had a mobile phone, he fathered a child – in jail! That’s the Americans saying it, not me –

MY: *laughs* I am envious of the level of intelligence the Americans have, I wouldn’t be looking at whose fathering what but, the Americans also have said publicly, categorically – and it’s in my book if you want to read it – they found no evidence of Pakistani state involvement in Mumbai. But I still haven’t answered your question, so please let me because –

KT: I didn’t talk of Pakistani state involvement, I talked of the LeT and the evidence of what the LeT –

MY: Let me –

KT: – was with you –

MY: Can I get to that?

KT: – and you failed to act.

MY: You’re actually defeating the purpose of your own question because you’re not letting me get to that. Look, I – you’re quoting Tariq Khosa? I’m sitting in front of you – in my private scholarly life, I have written asking a question about these trials because I firmly believed at the time, and still do, that it’s much much better for Pakistan if these trials are done and over with as soon as possible. You know why?

KT: Why aren’t they?

MY: Yes, I am telling you. You know why I’ve said this? Because India’s got a diplomatic scoring point, goes around the world and says “Look, the cases are not finished,” just like you’re doing. Why aren’t they finished? Because we have to follow the course of law and India is nor cooperating in the evidence it needs to provide. Get the witnesses over to write the evidence, I want to end this before anybody else because it’s bad for my country. Any Pakistani, let me also say this, any Pakistani, any Indian involved in any violence, must face justice. Please play your part and we’ll get this done. You are using it and delaying –

KT: Dr. Yusuf you have –

MY: India has been using and delaying this to score diplomatic points.

KT: – all the evidence you need but you won’t look at it. And let me now –

MY: That’s not correct –

KT: Let me just –

MY: That’s not correct. If it was correct –

KT: Dr. Yusuf –

MY: If it was correct –

KT: It’s not just –

MY: Karan, if it –

KT: It’s not just Indians who are questioning Pakistan’s sincerity over 2008, I’m going to quote the Trump administration, this is what they said on the 10th of September – just over a month ago – the 10th of September, and these were their words, “There is urgent need for Pakistan to take immediate, sustained, irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorist attacks and,” now listen carefully, sir, “and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot.” This is the Trump administration, 10th of September.

MY: My friend! No disagreement. And this is why I’m saying when I was a scholar, I raised this question, today I have the answer, Karan because I’ve looked at evidence and looked at what’s happening and the case. The answer is, I am convinced India is deliberately delaying sending the witnesses and sharing evidence to continue scoring the diplomatic points that you’ve just read out.

That’s India’s game, I’m a hundred percent convinced. If, if there wasn’t an issue, why would India say, “We can’t send the witnesses, give us 90 days, get 90 days.” Send the witnesses tomorrow, come, talk to the courts, we’ll solve it whichever way the courts decide – independent courts. We’re not going to give you oh, a major trial or a bar association –

KT: You’re saying the problem is on India’s side, you’re saying it’s because India has – to quote you – “deliberately delayed sending the evidence, sending the witnesses”, that the trial of the seven accused in the 2008 case cannot come to finish. India is to blame, not you.

MY: That’s correct.

KT: However, however, let me now quote Dawn, one of your most highly regarded newspapers, Dawn believes that the attitude of the Pakistani government to people who are accused of terror against India is farcical, and I want to quote Dawn, “As has been witnessed for nearly two decades now,” so it’s not a new problem, Dawn says it’s been witnessed for nearly two decades, “the state moves to ban militant outfits but in little time they are back up and running with new names and the entire structure of violence intact.” Dawn, your own paper, is saying you are not credible when you say you’re taking action against groups like Jaish or LeT who target India. These are your own countrymen saying it.

MY: You’re talking of countrymen? There are people like me who have questioned the Pakistani state in the past, and look where I’m sitting. This is the hallmark of a democratic society, Karan. Dawn wants to write that, If Moeed Yusuf, as a private citizen, wants to write that, great. When Moeed Yusuf comes into office, looks at material, looks at evidence, he tells you what the reality is – no problem.

But, Karan, the important point here, and you’re making me very happy because you were stuck on 2008 and whatever – I just told you what’s happening today, Karan. Life moves on, countries evolve, India’s evolving, and the way it’s evolving it’s lost the entire region. Let’s talk about how to fix that, let’s talk about how to move forward. I think we’ve done enough mudslinging, you’ve scored a few, I’ve scored a few –

KT: Absolutely, I agree with you –

MY: – what’s the point?

KT: I agree with you, Dr. Yusuf. For once, I agree with you completely. We’ve discussed the three important issues. I felt it was critical and imperative to begin this interview with – Kashmir, and your response to what happened in August 2019 and why Indians believe it’s hypocritical and also unwarranted; secondly, Kulbhushan Jadhav and how Indians believe you are in breach of what the ICJ has required; and thirdly, your response to the terror attacks India faces from Pakistani soil – I only brought up one deliberately because it was the first, Mumbai 2008.

Now, having got that out of the way, in the limited time available, and if the mood of this interview permits it because – let’s be honest – the mood of this interview is a pretty harsh, belligerent, aggressive one; it’s no longer soft and inviting any longer –

MY: It’ll change now because we’re on the right topic.

KT: You are the prime minister’s national security advisor, in effect – your actual title is Advisor on National Security and Strategic Policy Planning. Do you have any thoughts – today, sitting in that chair, with those flags behind you – on how the two countries can improve their relationship and move forward?

MY: Absolutely, Karan. Urdu mein kehte hai ‘der aaye, duroost aaye’. Finally, we are where we should be. You know, we can litigate the past all we want. I don’t think it’s harsh, I think it’s candid – we’ve had a good discussion – but let’s talk about what really matters to our future generations. You’ve suggested my title, you’ve stated my title – why is that title what it is? Because Pakistan is moving in a completely different direction. Why is somebody like me sitting in this chair? Compare me to my counterpart in India and I’ll leave it at that. Why? Because my goal, sitting in this chair because my marching orders are to increase the political space for my prime minister; is to I’ve my prime minister innovative ways to move forward, to think big.

And what is the big thought? I’ll tell you exactly. First of all, what does Pakistan of today stand for? Number one, economic security, Pakistan is the melting pot of all positive global economic interests. That’s what I want to see my country be, that’s what my prime minister espouses. Second, Pakistan wants to provide economic basis to the world – come and invest, you can be whoever; Pakistan is not up for choosing sides. I know a lot has been made about CPEC and China – America wants to invest? You’re welcome. UK wants to invest? You’re welcome. That’s Pakistan.

Third, it’s a country that’s looking for regional peace – that’s why we want peace in Afghanistan, we bent over backwards, why? Because we want connectivity to central Asia. CPEC, why? Because we want north-south connectivity, $60 billion in our economy – we are actually helping livelihoods. East-west connectivity, let me say this, it may surprise you given the Indian narrative. Pakistan wants connectivity to the east, unfortunately, India has been running in the polar-opposite direction. But when my largest neighbour in the region – in South Asia – has gone rogue, when it’s lost the entire region, I don’t have that option.

KT: You say Pakistan wants connectivity to the east, and yet there are restrictions on Indians sending their goods to Afghanistan by road through Pakistan. Why?

MY: I’ll tell you why. First of all, in COVID, the Afghanistan government requested us – and we made it a special provision for Afghan goods to cross over into India. I oversaw that, so I know this personally. When you talk about Indian goods or a Pakistani good here or there, this is the difference. Karan, we’ve got to think strategically. These are two countries, have terrible relations, we need to sit down like adults, identify the issues – we already know, there are two issues, fundamentally two issues – Kashmir and terrorism.

I want to talk about both. Kashmir, because there has been a narrative spun in India – and this is very important, Karan – we know that there’s been a narrative spun in India, “Oh! Pakistan and India struck a deal on the LoC, GB is taken care of,” you know better than me that they’ve been articles planted against me and other officials to discredit them saying, “Oh, LoC this side” –

KT: You’re once again diverting.

MY: Just one thought –

KT: Can I ask you –

MY: Just one thought on that.

KT: We’ll run out of time. What are your thoughts about improving the relationship? You’ve had –

MY: Okay, I’ll come to that. I’ll come to that.

KT: You’ve said ‘Let’s sit down like adults’. Are you talking about restarting dialogue? Is that what that’s a hint at?

MY: I don’t need to end on anything, I’ve been entirely candid, will continue to be. Let me tell you, very specifically – this is good that we’ve come out with this – first of all, don’t think that tactical conversations and stories can be planted to discredit Pakistan. I want to be categorical – Kashmir is a national issue for Pakistan. I spend every single day sitting here and thinking about the human being called Kashmiris, and this LoC business – let me clarify this once and for all – you can’t make the problem the solution, and till I am here –

KT: Dr. Yusuf –

MY: – it’s over my dead body.

KT: Dr. Yusuf –

MY: What do you want to do?

KT: This was meant to be an opportunity to talk about your thoughts on how the relationship can improve –

MY: Yeah, giving you –

KT: Let’s not talk about the tactical articles being planted either on your side or on this side –

MY: Giving you –

KT: Let’s come to that key issue – what are your thoughts about improving that relationship?

MY: Giving you. How does India take one step forward and find Pakistan taking two? Number one, not for my sake, but for your own sake and for a practical reason, reverse the military siege in Kashmir – pull back from the domicile law; and I say for your own sake why? Because Karan, if I know, your government knows – India’s is staring an implosion in the face, you’ve tested human nature to the point where it is imminent, it is inevitable. Save yourself the embarrassment as the Indian government, pull back and reverse. End the open jail – number one. What is the practical problem? We need to have dialogue? Is that the understanding?

KT: I have to interrupt because if you’re predicting any improvement in relations on the two things you’ve mentioned – reverse what you call the military siege and secondly, the rollback of the domicile law – then you’re also making it crystal clear that there’s going to be no talks between the two countries but that’s not going to happen –

MY: This is where I disagree –

KT: If you have genuine thoughts about how the relationship can improve, if you have genuine thoughts about how talks can start, let’s have those on the table. But if you’re simply going to make polemical points like this, then we’re extending this interview beyond the need to do so.

MY: No Karan, we simply disagree. Because, I’ll tell you very confidently, that India will have to reverse this – either perforce, as Kashmir implodes, or in a way that is more sensible. There is no question about it, the Kashmir situation is gone, it’s out of control. Okay, let me just get through the conversation. Number one, if there is to be a forward movement, Kashmir has to be on the agenda. Now, why am I saying what I’ve said?

KT: Hang on, Kashmir has always been on the agenda! No one has taken it off –

MY: You’re not giving –

KT: India and Pakistan have an agenda that goes back to the early ’90s where Kashmir and terror are right at the top and have often been handled by the foreign secretaries. So, who says it’s not on the agenda? I’m asking you a question –

MY: The Indian foreign minister –

KT: Do you have thoughts about how either the relationship can improve – let’s be specific about that.

MY: Number one, the Indian foreign minister has said it’s not on the agenda by saying India will resolve all issues unilaterally, but I’m glad if it’s on the agenda, that’s great – that’s a prerequisite. Look, Karan, Pakistan stands for peace. Pakistan stands for a conversation that moves us forward. And Pakistan stands for a region that grows. First thing, let’s be clear about this. Nobody in Pakistan is talking war. You impose war, you’ll see what happens, and you saw what happened last year. We’re not talking about it –

KT: Are you saying –

MY: We’re not going to go there.

KT: – that your prime minister wants to meet Narendra Modi, in the near future, to sit down and talk? Is that what you’re saying?

MY: Again, a tactical question. Identify the strategic bottlenecks first. Number one, –

KT: Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on – if your prime minister is keen, and I know you’ve cleared this with him, you said so yourself – you cleared the interview with Imran Khan – if he’s keen to start some sort of talks with Narendra Modi, shouldn’t he stop accusing Mr. Modi of following Nazi policies, of wanting genocide, of wanting a final solution, of creating Nazi-style concentrations camps? You can’t talk to someone you vilify in that way, shouldn’t that be the first step? Let’s calm the rhetoric from your side?

MY: First of all, it’s not one man, Imran Khan, talking to one man, Narendra Modi – we’re talking of two states talking to each other. So, I’ve told you we stand for peace, we wanna move forward – number one. Number two, Kashmir. Why do I say what I’ve said and you’ve labelled it as a polemic. It’s not. There’s a practical problem, Karan. What is the practical problem? The practical problem is there are three parties to the Kashmir dispute – there is Pakistan, there is India, and there is the principal party – the humans called Kashmiris. Now, if the Kashmiris can’t stand the sight of India, can’t bear to be in the same room as Indians –

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the launch of the physical distribution of property cards under the SVAMITVA (ownership) scheme, via video conferencing, in New Delhi, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. Photo: PTI

KT: Don’t put your words into the mouths of the Kashmiris, you have no idea what they think, you aren’t anywhere there –

MY: Is Farooq Abdullah not a Kashmiri?

KT: There was a time –

MY: Is Farooq Abdullah a pro-India politician?

KT: – when the Jiy-e-Sindh movement was at its height in the ’80s it could’ve been said of the Sindhis, it could have been said of the Baloch repeatedly in your country. Let’s not be polemical with each other because there’s no point or purpose that’s served. I hoped you wanted to talk about how the two countries can move forward but you’re not –

MY: Karan follow the logic, I’m a scholar, I’m a scholar, follow the logic. Please follow the logic. We’re not talking of Assam and Delhi here, we’re talking of a dispute that needs to be resolved. Follow the logic, please. One sec, follow this – you want to move forward, we have to have dialogue, agreed? Okay. One of the princip – Let me just explain the logic, please.

KT: I haven’t said a word.

MY: Okay, you were about to. Second, you want a dialogue, you need to understand what you want to talk about. I want to talk about two things upfront – Kashmir and terrorism – I want to talk about both, okay. Let’s take Kashmir, three parties to the conflict – India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris – one party does not want to sit in the same room as another party. So, that –

KT: So then, your condition for talks is the presence of what you call the ‘Kashmir party’ at the talks. If that’s your condition –

MY: Can I finish?

KT: – make it clear, is that what you’re saying?

MY: Karan, just let me go through the logic and you can ask this question in two seconds, please.

KT: Briefly, Dr. Yusuf, because we are running out of time which is why I’m saying –

MY: I’m here all day, my friend, you can take whatever time you want. Let me just explain the logic, it’s important. No Pakistani official has spoken to an Indian media channel for 15 months, let’s talk about this for a second. The logic is, we are talking of the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. If the Kashmiris do not come on board even to the point of saying, “We are interested, we can have a dialogue where India is present,” a dialogue is impossible.

KT: I’m very intrigued by the language you used, you say we’re talking of the Kashmiri’s right to self-determination. Is Pakistan now saying that if Kashmir wants to be independent – including POK, Gilgit Baltistan – you’re happy for an independent state, and Gilgit Baltistan and PoK can have independence? Because that is the consequence of talking about the right to self-determination. That’s not been your country’s official position for 70 years, are you now making policy on the hoof in this interview?

MY: Putting words in my mouth.

KT: I’ve quoted you back. I’ve hardly put – you spoke about Kashmiri right to self-determination, not me.

MY: Yeah, right to self-determination? Absolutely. Where’s it enshrined? UN Charter, UN Resolution.

KT: Hang on, are you, therefore, prepared for Gilgit and Baltistan, and Azaad Kashmir as you call it – PoK as we call it – to be an independent country? Are you prepared for this?

MY: First of all, let me tell you, I think you are unaware. There are two steps to this process, there’s a plebiscite where India and Pakistan – the two options that are given under the UN resolutions Then there’s a second step, which you are not aware of – let me just answer your question. There’s an Article 257 of the Pakistani constitution that says that after the plebiscite, Pakistan and the Kashmiris will decide what kind of arrangement they want.

KT: Hang on a second, ‘Pakistan and the Kashmiris’ doesn’t give the Kashmiris self-determination – you have a role to play.

MY: Of course it does, self-determination comes from the plebiscite. Self-determination comes from the plebiscite.

KT: – because we’ve carried on a very long time and we don’t want to make our audience tired and weary. They may already be very tired and weary, and probably very disheartened as well. One thing, given the terrible problem communicating – speaking the same language, identifying the issues that need to be talked about between the two sides – would there be merit in quiet, confidential, secret backchannel talks?

MY: Karan, first of all, let me say, I hope nobody’s disheartened with reality because we’ve had a very good candid conversation – you have your points, I have my points and the audience will judge, let’s not pre-judge it; I’m very grateful you’ve given me time. Now, dialogue, backchannel, front channel, quiet – we first have to know whether there is intent to talk to get somewhere. So far, I’ll tell you very honestly, in the past year we’ve got the messages about a desire of conversation but you know why there is a desire for conversation – in my reading? So that there can be a dialogue which India can take to the world and say, “Oh, everything settled, Pakistan-India have agreed,” that’s not intent –

KT: Okay.

MY: We want real dialogue and there are certain conditions that I’ve laid out – Kashmir and what needs to happen there; and also please stop perpetrating terror against Pakistan, it doesn’t help anybody. My message is peace, my message is talk. But there is an intent and there has to be an enabling environment to talk, Karan. Create that and you will find us willing the next day. The that one step, you will see my prime minister take two – that’s his promise, he stands by it.

KT: Dr. Yusuf, I’ve heard you in full. People in both countries, no doubt, will watch this and hear you in full. They will make up their minds themselves but I want to simply point out, as journalist, something you said in that last sentence and said, “we’ve got messages for a desire for conversation.” I take it you’re saying that you received messages, presumably on the backchannel, from the Indian government, for a negotiation or at least for talks. Can you confirm what you’ve said?

MY: That’s not what I said.

KT: You said, you’re exact words were, “We’ve got messages for a desire for conversation,” I wrote it down as you said it.

MY: I never mentioned the word ‘backchannel’, there are multiple ways to get –

KT: I know you didn’t mention the word backchannel, I’m asking how you got this message? Who gave it to you, how did you get it?

MY: There are multiple ways to get messages across. You’ll be embarrassed if I tell you, it’s not for this forum – the point is, I’m glad there is a need for a conversation felt. We are ready if what I’ve laid out for you on Kashmir and terror are met – both issues on the table – but Karan, last word –

KT: Let’s not repeat ourselves, Dr. Yusuf –

MY: Last word for you. If India and Pakistan are not going to move forward, this region is going to be left behind, and the world is going to laugh at us – history is going to be written against us. The message is ‘let’s move on’ but do the right thing – do right by Kashmiris, do right by the region, do right by Pakistan and we’ll be there.

KT: Alright, Dr. Yusuf, let’s not try to – you’re a scholar as you said, not a politician. I’ll simply note that you revealed that you have got messages for a desire for conversation from the Indian government – you won’t say how you got them, but you confirm you’ve got them. That’s an important thing for an Indian audience –

MY: That’s very good, we’re very glad there’s a need being felt.

KT: And you’re very glad you’ve got those messages as well.

MY: Have the intent –

KT: Thank you Dr. Yusuf –

MY: Not for show, not for effect –

KT: I thank you, Dr. Yusuf, for the time you’ve given me, for answering all my questions. I’m not sure we’ve had a productive conversation as opposed to a quarrelsome one, but I think it’s inherent in the nature of India-Pakistan interviews. Particularly, at this time when this is the first that is happening in the last 15 months that it would be quarrelsome, it would be aggressive, it would be difficult to take. I apologise to the audience if this has been a difficult interview but I point out it’s also an important one because it’s the first that has happened since August 2019. Thank you very much –

MY: Karan, you come over to Pakistan, there will be no aggression.

KT: Thank you very much indeed, I will definitely take up your offer. Please give my best wishes to you prime minister – who I’ve interviewed many times before, and thank you.

MY: I’m waiting for you, Karan, it’ll be a pleasure.

KT: Thank you, Dr. Yusuf.

MY: It’s a pleasure.