Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan says it is ready to engage in dialogue with India if its eastern neighbour “is willing to revisit” its recent actions in the disputed territory of Kashmir, Pakistan’s foreign minister says.
Speaking to Anadolu news agency in an interview released on Sunday, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed a recent thawing of relations between the two countries.
“If India is willing to revisit some of the decisions that they took on August 5, 2019, Pakistan will be more than happy to engage, sit and talk out our differences and sit and, through a dialogue, resolve the outstanding issues,” said Qureshi, referring to India’s 2019 move to revoke Indian-administered Kashmir’s special constitutional status and launch a widespread crackdown in the territory.
Qureshi’s statement is in line with Al Jazeera’s exclusive reporting of specific actions Pakistan is seeking in relation to Kashmir – the Himalayan region that both countries claim in full but administer separate portions of – to restart bilateral talks.
Those actions include, but are not limited to, a reversal of the alleged demographic change in Kashmir, the release of political prisoners, the restoring of statehood to the territory, lifting all restrictions on communication and movement, and reducing Indian troop levels.
India’s foreign ministry has not commented on the Pakistani foreign minister’s comments or the Al Jazeera report.
Ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours have been virtually frozen since February 2019, when an attack by an armed group on Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir sparked a military standoff with Pakistan that saw both countries bomb each other’s territory.
This February, however, saw the surprise announcement of a reaffirmation of a 2003 ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC), which divides Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistan-administered Kashmir and had seen an increased level of violence from both militaries firing at each other since 2019.
In March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan to congratulate him on the occasion of Pakistan Day, a national holiday. Pakistan PM Khan responded in kind.
A meeting of the countries’ Indus water commissioners also occurred that month in New Delhi.
On Sunday, FM Qureshi cautioned against attaching too much importance to the nascent process of talks.
“It is too early to make a value judgement on that,” he said, stressing the need for the two countries to avoid active conflict.
“We cannot afford to go to war, you know, it will be mutually suicidal,” he said. “And no sensible person will advocate a policy of that nature. So, we need to sit and we need to talk.”
Regarding the recent communication leading to the reaffirmation of the ceasefire, Qureshi said only that “both sides contacted each other”, offering no details on the current mechanism for communication between the countries.
On Friday, he had denied that any “peace talks” were taking place or that the United Arab Emirates had any role in the process, contradicting a statement by the UAE’s ambassador to the United States.