Monday, April 19, 2021

India responds to Pakistan Army chiefs ‘hand of peace’ with call to end terror

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  • Relations between the two sides nose-dived after the Indian government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August 2019. In response, Pakistan decided not to post an envoy in New Delhi and asked the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad to leave.

PUBLISHED ON FEB 05, 2021 12:28 AM IST

India on Thursday responded to the Pakistan Army chief’s offer of a “hand of peace” and call for the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue by saying the onus is on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror to facilitate good relations.

Addressing a graduation ceremony at the Pakistan Air Force Academy on Wednesday, army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had said Pakistan is firmly committed to the ideal of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence.

“It is time to extend [a] hand of peace in all directions,” Bajwa said, according to an official statement. Pakistan and India must “resolve the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir in a dignified and peaceful manner” in line with aspirations of the Kashmiri people and “bring this human tragedy to its logical conclusion”, he added.

Asked about Bajwa’s remarks at a weekly news briefing, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava reiterated India’s stated position that there couldn’t be any talks as long as Pakistan failed to end cross-border terrorism emanating from its territory.

“Our position is well-known. India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence,” Srivastava said.

“The onus is on Pakistan for creating such an environment,” he added.

Bajwa’s remarks marked the latest overture by the Pakistani side for talks to address bilateral tensions and the Kashmir issue. Relations between the two sides nose-dived after the Indian government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August 2019. In response, Pakistan decided not to post an envoy in New Delhi and asked the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad to leave.

Even before that, relations were damaged by the February 2019 suicide attack at Pulwama, which killed 40 Indian troopers and was blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). India retaliated with an air strike on a JeM base within Pakistan, triggering aerial battles a day later that resulted in the shooting down of an Indian jet fighter.

The two sides have not held any substantive dialogue since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Track II and back channels contacts too have stopped.

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