Pakistan seeks better relations with neighbours including India

by IANS |

Islamabad, July 10 (IANS) Pakistan's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar has reiterated the ruling government's willingness to mend ties with its neighbours, including India.

Highlighting it as one of the priorities of his government's foreign policy, Dar mentioned about the consistent stance on improving ties with its neighbours during a briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"Pakistan cannot change its neighbours. Therefore, it would be better to improve relations with the existing ones," said the Foreign Minister.

Talking about relations with Afghanistan, Dar said that while Pakistan wishes to have better bilateral relations, it cannot ignore the fact that the recent attack on Chinese citizens in Pakistan was planned from across the border.

"Pakistan seeks positive relations with Afghanistan. The attack on the Chinese was not just a terrorist attack.. It was an attempt to damage Pakistan-China relations. Two incidents have damaged Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was involved in both incidents. We demand that Afghanistan expel the TTP," he mentioned.

While Dar refrained from mentioning India, he has been calling for improvement of relations with the neighbouring country. His indirect hint towards willingness to de-escalate and normalise relations with India during the latest briefing is not the first time such an intent has been shared publicly.

After becoming the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Dar had called on India to reopen business and trade relations through confidence-building measures and table talks.

Dar's statements on better relations with India were reiterated on various occasions, highlighting the ruling government's optimism towards paving the way to restart channels of engagement with India.

He again highlighted the importance of better relations with the neighbours, including India and Afghanistan, during the briefing of the new committee, citing it as a part of Pakistan's prioritised aspects of foreign policy which will lay emphasis on high-level engagements with strategic, traditional and regional partners and neighbours.

Experts say that Dar's stance on relations with India and Afghanistan indicates a softer position of the democratic coalition government of Shehbaz Sharif towards the neighbouring countries. However, the government's foreign policy stance may not get approval from the powerful military establishment.

"Pakistan's relations with India are nowhere because of two reasons. First, India has clearly refused to revoke and reverse the Article 370 decision on Kashmir. And, secondly, Narendra Modi, during his recent election campaign, had made it clear that he has shut down the chapter on relations with Pakistan. In this scenario, I do not see much happening in the near future," said senior political analyst Javed Siddique.

He stated that Pakistan's current political setup is duty-bound to take the country's military establishment into confidence before taking any step forward. Siddique added that the military is on the offensive against TTP and is threatening to even take out terrorists in Afghanistan.

"On the other hand, it (military) has no intent to engage with India if the Kashmir dispute is not settled. Therefore, the current government's wish to engage with India and Afghanistan may not get a positive signal from the military establishment," said Siddique.

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