Pakistan’s Interior minister has accused India of not reciprocating Islamabad’s commitment to peace with “unilateral actions” and warned New Delhi against “bullying” his country.
Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan is trying to overcome the “trust deficit” that exists in the region but India has disappointed Islamabad with unilateral moves like boycotting the SAARC summit which was to be hosted by Islamabad in 2016.
“The present government in India has a certain thinking, where it thinks it can bully Pakistan. That will not work. We must show maturity because the future of more than a billion people who live in South Asia is at stake,” Iqbal said, delivering a lecture at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London on Tuesday.
“India’s gesture of not coming to the SAARC summit was uncalled for; very undiplomatic and very inappropriate for the cause of peace. Such unilateral actions only add to more mistrust. We should try to engage each other at different fora,” he said.
In November, India decided not to attend the SAARC Summit in Islamabad following a militant attack on a military camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir killed 18 soldiers. India blamed the attack on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad militants.
Iqbal, also the deputy secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) claimed that India’s lack of engagement and reciprocity had cost former prime minister Nawaz Sharif dearly.
“Sharif paid a lot of cost for his policy on India. He was categorised as ‘Modi ka yaar’ (Modi’s friend) by Opposition forces for showing a lot of restraint and his commitment to peace with India. India has disappointed us; it has not reciprocated,” he said.
Flagging the “terrorist attacks” in Mumbai in 2008 as a “setback” to efforts against terrorism, the minister said the attack should have strengthened cooperation between India and Pakistan but instead it became a “trophy” for disruptive elements because it resulted in the peace process being abandoned.
“Peace can only be achieved on a reciprocal basis. One side alone cannot achieve peace. The solution to all regional problems lies in greater collaboration and cooperation within the region,” he said.
Responding to a question on how the Pakistan government plans to tackle the Kashmir issue, Iqbal – who is also a minister for planning, development and reform in Pakistan – said any solution to the Kashmir issue must be acceptable to all the parties, including the people of Jammu and Kashmir, because continued violence would be a “recipe for instability”.
“As far as Kashmir is concerned, it is also a matter of concern for the international community. If conflicts involving Muslim populations will not be given the same consideration as conflicts where non-Muslim populations are involved, then the extremist groups will always have a narrative to sell,” he added.
The minister, who was in London following a visit to the US, also warned the Trump administration against bullying tactics and demanded greater understanding from the West.
“We Pakistanis have a particular ethos…We do not react to force and duress…we cannot let Pakistan become a war zone while meeting demands of the US,” he said.
The minister accused Western agencies of bringing slain Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and his “Middle Eastern jihadis” to Pakistan.
“Our madrassas were peaceful. It was universities in the US which developed special curriculum to bring militancy to schools that were educating the children of Afghanistan refugees. Pakistan deserves understanding for the sacrifices it has made instead of a blame game,” he said.