Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has ruled out the possibility of normalisation of relations with India, saying such a move would be a betrayal to the Kashmiris.
In a live Q and A session with the public on Sunday, Khan asserted that re-establishing ties with its eastern neighbour would be “ignoring all their struggle [Kashmiris] and the more than 100,000 Kashmiris martyred”.
“I tried, since day one after coming into power, that we have relations with India and the issue of Kashmir is resolved through dialogue,” he said, adding that if Pakistan normalised relations with India now, it “will be doing a major betrayal to the people of Kashmir”.
“There is no doubt that our trade will improve but all their blood will be wasted, so this cannot happen. This cannot happen that our trade improves at [the cost of] their blood,” he said.
The stalled talks could be resumed only if New Delhi reverses its scrapping of the longstanding semi-autonomous status of Indian-administered Kashmir, he said.
The Narendra Modi-led Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions from its Constitution on August 5, 2019. Moreover, it was also split into two federally administered territories.
Simultaneously, it locked the region down, detained thousands of people, imposed movement restrictions and enforced a communications blackout.
Islamabad, in turn, suspended trade ties and downgraded diplomatic relations with New Delhi.
On Friday, the president of the United Nations General Assembly said the nuclear-armed nations should “refrain” from taking any steps that would alter the status of the disputed Himalayan region.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947, with relations often tense between the two neighbours. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but govern separate portions of it.
Thaw in relations
Earlier this year, reports emerged that top intelligence officials of the two nuclear-armed neighbours met in the United Arab Emirates in January this year in an attempt to stem heightened tensions between the two sides.
Last month, the UAE envoy to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, confirmed that the Gulf state was mediating between India and Pakistan to help the nuclear-armed rivals reach a “healthy and functional” relationship.
In February, the Indian and Pakistani armies announced a sudden and rare reaffirmation of a 2003 ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border dividing the Kashmir region.
Days later, Pakistan’s powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa called on the two archrivals to “bury the past” and move towards cooperation.
Last month, Khan and Modi exchanged letters that called for “peaceful” and “cordial relations” between the two neighbours.