Pakistan’s ambassador to Turkey Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi said on Wednesday that they have taken every step to not “take the situation to a point where the lives and livelihood of 1.5 billion people are put at risk”.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Qazi recalled Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s letter to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi when he took office last August in which he reaffirmed his “commitment to good neighborly relations, resolution of disputes and leaving the baggage of history behind”.
“He [Khan] said in a televised interview that if India takes one step, Pakistan will take two [for peace]. This has always been our commitment,” Qazi said.
Calling a suicide bombing on Feb. 14 that killed at least 40 Indian troops in Indian-administered Kashmir a “terrible incident”, he said the Pakistani leadership has always urged for dialogue to resolve issues.
India has blamed militants based in Pakistan for the attack, a charge Islamabad denies.
“All through this, you will see a continuous strain of efforts on the side of Pakistan not to allow the situation to go and cross a certain threshold. Unfortunately, this was not reciprocated on the Indian side,” Qazi added.
The ambassador said as part of de-escalation efforts Pakistan has offered to open a second border crossing to facilitate visa-free entry for Indian Sikh pilgrims. A Pakistani delegation visited India on Thursday for talks on the issue.
“We just learned that India refused visas to Pakistani journalists who wanted to cover this event,” said Qazi.
He reiterated that Pakistan’s call for peace must not be considered “a unilateral sign of weakness”.
Qazi said that for two democracies of the size and capabilities of Pakistan and India, it is “absolutely essential to show maturity and to have a dialogue rather than going the path of belligerence”.
“If democracies don’t talk, who will?”
Qazi said that it is “unacceptable” for India to be one of the co-chairs of a group that evaluates Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international terror-financing watchdog.
Last year, Pakistan was placed on the watchdog’s gray list. The Indian ambassador to Ankara has claimed the watchdog’s May review might see Pakistan demoted to the blacklist.
“We are in continuous communication with the FATF. We are working very hard with full intention and clearness of purpose to implement all the requirements and abide by the various requirements,” Qazi said.
“However, unfortunately, this essentially technical process has been rendered totally political by the manner in which India is using its position as the co-chair just to penalize and settle political scores against Pakistan.
“There is a motivated, interested party sitting as an evaluator which can unfortunately not be trusted to be objective about this entire exercise,” said the envoy.
He said that India is morally bound to recuse itself from the process.
“In normal circumstances, for instance, if a judge is sitting on a case in which he has a direct interest, he is morally bound to recuse himself. This applies to this situation as well.
“The process has been hijacked. This is unacceptable.”
Water sharing treaty, Kashmir
Speaking about media reports alleging India could stop water supply from the rivers flowing to Pakistan, the envoy said New Delhi has been threatening this for a long time.
“We hope that India does not go down that path….There are certain things that even in the worst instances of animosity you do not resort to and holding the other side’s water is one of them,” Qazi said.
He called the situation in disputed Kashmir a “vicious negative circle” and called on India to put an end to its “counterproductive” policies.
“The will of an occupied people never breaks. It has not broken in the past 70 years and it won’t break in the next 70 years,” Qazi said.
“If a plebiscite was held today, I don’t think there would be a single vote in India’s favor. Just ask the people. That is where we are stuck and it is this denial of reality that Indian people, the Pakistanis and above all the Kashmiris are paying a price,” Qazi said.
Qazi said that the international community can help by deescalating the situation and focusing on the suffering of the Kashmiri people.
He recalled the reports of UN, independent commission of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Amnesty International and said that those reports “have to translate into action”.
“There are already UN Security Council resolutions, why not implement them?” Qazi said.
Referring to the intensive militarization of Kashmir, he said there is one Indian soldier for every 10 Kashmiris.
Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.
“South Asia is home to the largest absolute number of people who are poor and children who do not go to school. This is what the two countries should compete with each other; to help reduce poverty, illiteracy and various other marginalizations and discriminations,” Qazi added.
Qazi also said that India has been the world’s largest purchaser of defense equipment for the last six to seven years.
Praising Turkey’s initiatives and “logical, wise and measured” approach to the tensions, Qazi said that Pakistan hopes for a similar attitude from all other countries.