‘Our neighbour has to understand’: Shehbaz Sharif renews his message to India

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Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif said the two countries cannot be normal neighbours unless serious issues are addressed through meaningful discussions

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday expressed his willingness to hold talks with India, saying the two countries cannot be “normal neighbours” unless serious issues are addressed through peaceful and meaningful discussions.

Sharif’s offer of talks during his speech at the inaugural session of the Pakistan Minerals Summit in Islamabad, came a little more than six months after he made a similar proposal during an interview with AlArabiya news channel. India and Pakistan have not had any substantial talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks New Delhi has linked any contacts to Islamabad cracking down on terror.

Though Sharif didn’t name any country in his remarks, it was obvious he was referring to India. He said war wasn’t an option for both countries and that there would be no survivors in the event of a “nuclear flashpoint”.

“We have nothing against anybody. We have to look after our own self, build our nation, even with our neighbour. We are prepared to talk to them, provided that the neighbour is serious to talk serious matters on the table because war is no more an option,” Sharif said.

He said it is important for both countries to address their “serious issues” through talks but did not specifically mention any of these issues.

“But it is equally important that our neighbour has to understand that we cannot become normal neighbours unless abnormalities are removed, unless our serious issues are understood and addressed through peaceful and meaningful discussions,” Sharif said.

There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Sharif’s remarks.

The business meeting in Islamabad was attended by Pakistan Army chief Gen Asim Munir and several foreign dignitaries.

Sharif further said: “Pakistan…is a nuclear power, not as an aggressor but for our defence purposes. And we had three wars, fought in the last 75 years. And what happened? I’m being very honest with you. It generated more poverty, unemployment and lack of resources to finance education, health and well-being of the people.”

He added: “So is this the way we have to adopt or to have a war of economic competition? Because, God forbid, God forbid, if there is any nuclear flashpoint, who will live to tell what happened? So that is not an option.”

In January, Sharif had offered to hold talks with India and said he had asked the leadership of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to help bring the two countries to the table. Soon after, Islamabad made any discussions conditional to New Delhi restoring the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. At the time, Sharif was visiting the UAE.

Hours after Sharif made the offer during the interview with AlArabiya, the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad said talks “can only take place after India had reversed its illegal action of August 5, 2019” – a reference to the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

The developments in Jammu and Kashmir and a string of terror attacks blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), including the 2019 Pulwama bombing that killed 40 Indian troopers and brought the two sides close to war, have taken bilateral ties to an all-time low.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made several peace overtures when Sharif’s elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, was the premier during 2013-17. Modi invited Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony in 2014 and made a surprise visit to Lahore in December 2015 to meet his then Pakistani counterpart. However, ties between the two sides were subsequently derailed.

Sharif’s government is set to be dissolved later this month to pave the way for holding a general election in Pakistan. It is unlikely that his government or the caretaker administration to be formed to oversee the election will be in a position to conduct any substantial talks with India.

Source: Hindu Stan Times