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US urged to play role for peace dialogue between Pakistan and India

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has urged the United States to play its role in persuading India to engage with Islamabad for bringing peace and stability to the South Asian region.

“Pakistan is committed to a peaceful neighbourhood, the onus is now on India to create the right conditions,” said the country’s US envoy, Asad Majeed Khan. “We urge the US to play its role.”

Addressing an online forum of a Washington think-tank, Stimson Centre, this weekend, Ambassador Khan also suggested that the new Biden administration should consult the Taliban on any Afghan pullout delay.

Appreciating the Pakistani American community’s contribution to strengthening the national economy, the Pakistani envoy said that the community could also play a key role in improving US-Pakistan ties.

A State Bank report released this week noted that workers’ remittances from the United States to Pakistan reached an unprecedented $1.4078 billion during the last seven months, from July 2020 to January 2021. This is a 45.8 per cent increase from the same period last year.

“We have made repeated gestures and overtures for peace,” said Ambassador Khan while responding to a question about rebuilding the India and Pakistan relationship.

The ambassador recalled that in February 2019, Indian troops were attacked in Pulwama in the occupied Kashmir, which New Delhi tried to blame on elements within Pakistan.

“We challenged the Indian narrative of there being a camp of 300 terrorists. We maintained that this was being done by a government which had gained political mileage by punching Pakistan,” he said.

“We said that they were doing so because Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to go to election,” said the Pakistani envoy while explaining how India exploited the attack to merge the occupied territories.

The manipulation allowed Mr Modi to win the election and despite concerns, Prime Minister Imran Khan made that overture of dialogue and peace, Mr Khan said. But the Indians “went and did the Aug 5 unilateral action, followed by a series of other actions,” he said.

“Now, in that backdrop, I don’t know if Pakistan can engage in any relationship with India, let alone building a trade relationship,” said the Pakistani envoy when a participant urged Islamabad to enhance bilateral trade with India.

“For us to have a normal trade relationship, for us to have a normal political relationship, it is really important that India first of all reverses those unilateral actions and then resumes dialogue with the intention of resolving not just Kashmir but all other disputes,” Ambassador Khan said.

“And then we can work for resolving our economic, trade and investment challenges.”

Mr Khan asked the Biden administration to make a new approach to deal with “a new and transformed Pakistan.”

He said that this was a Pakistan which “launched a very successful and determined counter-terrorism effort,” that was “clearly visible” not only in a remarkably improved domestic security situation, but also in counter-terrorism operations “on our border with Afghanistan.”

This change, he said, would be better appreciated by those who had experienced and seen the situation in the past. “So, the present Biden team will definitely be in a better position to appreciate what has changed on the ground as compared to anyone else who had not seen this before,” he added.

“I say this because I have been a part of these conversations with the Obama administration where a number of senior officials in the new administration also held very important positions,” the ambassador said.

One example of the changes that had happened since the Obama days, Mr Khan said, was Fata’s merger with KP.

“The way we have cleared those tribal agencies, building up border fences, integrating Fata into mainstream Pakistan, going after terrorists and proscribed entities. That’s the first reality that they will have to realise, recognise and appreciate,” the ambassador said.

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