Sartaj Aziz continues to blame India, says ‘Pathankot’ no excuse to cancel dialogue

Islamabad: Maintaining his assertion that India was reluctant to hold dialogue with Pakistan, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz on Friday stated that, New Delhi was using excuses like the Pathankot attack to further delay talks with Islamabad on a range of issues crucial to both nations.

Speaking in an interview, Aziz said that the priority for Pakistan has always been improved relations with its neighbours including India, and it remains so because without that, Islamabad’s economic goals and revivals cannot be achieved.

“But of course, it takes two to achieve that objective and India so far has not responded. In one excuse or other, they delay dialogue. In the first case, after Prime Minister Modi’s inaugural ceremony, the two Foreign Secretaries could not meet because the High Commissioner met Kashmiri leaders, and they have been meeting for 20 years, so that was hardly an excuse,” Aziz stated.

Asserting that Pathankot was no grounds for dialogues to be cancelled, Aziz added that talks also include terrorist related activities and both nations can also exchange progress reports on that basis also.

“That’s why I think that everyone in the world has been emphasising that when two countries have problems, they resume dialogue. The non resumption of dialogue is a problem,” he said.

Aziz further stated that Pakistan has tried to ensure that the relationship remains cordial, including no tensions on the LOC and the normal trading continues, so that if the relationship cannot improve, it should not deteriorate either.

“To that extend, I think we have succeeded. So we will continue to insist and urge that we should resume dialogue on all issues and try to improve out relation both in economic and non economic fields,” Aziz said.

However India today, flatly refused Aziz’s statements saying that it has never shied away from any engagement with the hostile neighbour and is prepared to discuss any issue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.

“As far as the comments of Sartaj Aziz are concerned, I would say that India has never ever shied away from any engagement with Pakistan and is prepared to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan bilaterally, in an atmosphere free from terror and violence,” Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the media.

Adding that it was Prime Minister Modi who yet again took the decision to travel to Lahore on a very short notice on December 25 last year, Swarup stated that Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was prepared to go to Pakistan in the first half of January this year to hold initial discussions on the modalities of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue, but the Pathankot incident intervened.

“After that incident of Pathankot, it was a natural and legitimate acceptation of both the governments and the people of India, that there should be concrete action from Pakistan which has not denied of the involvement of its nationals in the attack,” Swarup added.

Following Prime Minister Modi’s statement where he placed the onus of stalled talks on Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz claimed that New Delhi was avoiding dialogue with Islamabad to avoid negotiations on crucial issues such as Kashmir.

In an interview to Times Now, Prime Minister Modi had said that due to his diplomatic efforts, India was not reluctant to engage with Pakistan.

“Our approach has created difficulties for Pakistan, and they find it hard to respond on the matter in the international community,” he said.

The dialogue between the hostile neighbours hit a major roadblock after the attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in January. (ANI)