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Friday Mar 01 2019

'Pakistan never wants to escalate', FM Qureshi on Indian aggression


ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday said Pakistan desires peace and "never wants to escalate" amid soaring tensions with India. 

Speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Qureshi said Pakistan will be "open to any step that leads to de-escalation."

"Pakistan never wants to escalate," the foreign minister said, terming the recent border tensions as "serious" and emphasising that India attacked Pakistan when it violated its airspace. 

"The situation certainly was serious, when India attacked Pakistan, when they violated our airspace and dropped bombs in Pakistan, when they violated the UN charter, when they violated international law and undertook the act of aggression. This was serious... Indian air force is fully mobilised, Pakistan air force is fully mobilised... How dangerous can it be?"

Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan's announcement to free Indian pilot Abhinandan, who was captured by Pakistani troops when his aircraft was shot down, was a "goodwill gesture and should be an expression of Pakistan's willingness to de-escalate."

"We're willing to hand him over as soon as possible … perhaps tomorrow [Friday]," he confirmed.  

Asked if he could envision an all-out war between the two nuclear-armed rivals, Qureshi said he hoped not as that would be a "mutual suicide."

"Pakistan never wants to escalate, never wants to be in a hostile position. From day one, when this government came into office, PM Imran Khan offered [to India] that if [they] take one step forward, we will take two."

The foreign minister said that upon learning of Pulwama attack, the first thing he did was to condemn the incident. 

"When this tragic Pulwama incident took place, the first thing I did was to condemn it, and condole. PM Imran made a very balanced, reasonable offer that if [India] has actionable evidence, it should share with Pakistan."

Qureshi said that the Imran Khan-led government wants peace and desires to fix economic issues. 

"This is a new government, with a new mindset. We want peace. We want to concentrate on fixing the economy, eradicating corruption. We want to see reconciliation in Afghanistan. We want peace and stability in the region," he stressed. 

“We will be open to any step that leads to de-escalation. If they [India] have good solid evidence please sit and talk. Please initiate a dialogue and we will show reasonableness,” Qureshi replied when asked if Pakistan would welcome placing JeM chief Masood Azhar on the terrorist list.

“He [Masood Azhar] is in Pakistan according to my information. He is very unwell. He’s unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house. That’s the information I have.”

“If they [India] give us evidence which is acceptable to the courts of Pakistan after all we will have to justify, they [JeM] will go to the court. And if they [India] have solid inalienable evidence share it with us so that we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan,” Qureshi replied to a question on Pakistan arresting Masood Azhar.

Both US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the US Special Representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, have acknowledged Islamabad's constructive role in regional and Afghan peace process, Qureshi added.

Earlier in Geo News' programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath, the foreign minister lamented that there had been no response from India over Pakistan's "goodwill gesture" to free the captured Indian pilot. 

Pakistan, with its goodwill gesture, has conveyed a positive message to those in India who are sensible, he said, adding that he believed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was probably hesitant and concerned that he would impact his position further should he try contacting Pakistan.

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