Saturday Jan 22 2022

Pakistan takes cautious approach to India’s Siachin demilitarisation idea

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmed addresses a weekly press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad, on January 22, 2021. — Facebook
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmed addresses a weekly press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad, on January 22, 2021. — Facebook
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  • Islamabad has requested Beijing to consider issue of Pakistani students on a priority basis, FO says.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday did not outright reject India’s recent proposal about the possibility of the demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier saying Pakistan was committed to improving relations with India and having a dialogue which is meaningful, constructive, result-oriented and sustained.

“On multiple occasions, the prime minister and the foreign minister have expressed our position on this matter (dialogue). But India has vitiated the environment — the conditions are not there. We have repeatedly said that onus lies on India to take necessary steps for an environment conducive for constructive dialogue,” said the spokesperson at the Foreign Office, during the weekly media briefing.

He was asked about Pakistan’s reaction to any possibility of India demilitarisation of the Siachin Glacier.

Recently, Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane had said that India was not averse to the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier provided Pakistan accepted the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) that separates Indian and Pakistani positions.

“Pakistan has a policy, which is derived from the principle of a friendly neighbourhood. We want peace and friendship in our neighbourhood, good relations with all including India,” the FO spokesperson said.

“But you have seen how the developments have unfolded in our region; you have witnessed the very hostile Indian attitude especially during the last couple of years and since the illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, 2019 in IIOJ&K, the situation has further deteriorated and in this context, we have to see how we can move forward,” added the spokesperson.

In his opening statement, the spokesperson said it is encouraging that the international community is increasingly realising the gravity of the situation in IIOJ&K towards which Pakistan has been drawing attention all these years.

“You would have followed example the Russell Tribunal on Kashmir held in Sarajevo last month, and the filing earlier this week of an application by a London-based law firm with the British Police seeking the arrest of Indian officials over their alleged role in war crimes in IIOJ&K,” he pointed out.

Reportedly, the law firm has submitted a report based on over 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021, providing extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit documenting how Indian military and civil leadership were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians.

“It is self-evident that India can no longer escape international and legal censure for its rampant human rights violations in IIOJ&K, and we call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations and international human rights and humanitarian organisations to hold India accountable”, said the spokesperson.

He added that the world needs to do more because the kind of reaction and response that is there is not enough, and that is why Pakistan continues to raise its voice and mobilise international opinion and support for the Kashmiri people.

Afghanistan crisis

Regarding the latest position on the Indian request to send wheat assistance to Afghanistan through the land route of the Wagah Border, the spokesperson responded, “As you would recall Pakistan has allowed on humanitarian grounds on an exceptional basis.

We have conveyed to the Indian side, necessary details of arrangements put in place by Pakistan, and for about 3 weeks now, are awaiting further response from India about the date of dispatch and other information regarding the first consignment.”

Turning to Afghanistan and the issue of Pakistan recognising Kabul, the spokesperson said this was an important issue and has been discussed and deliberated by many countries.

“There are obviously diverse views about it, as there are diverse expectations as well. There is also a priority attached to the immediate concerns such as the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that requires consistent engagement. We think the best way of doing this is in consultation and coordination with the neighbouring countries and others in the international community. We are of the view that a broader approach on this is going to be useful,” he said.

Issue of Pakistani students studying in China

Turning to the problems Pakistani students are facing while being unable to return to China to continue their studies, the spokesperson said this issue has been discussed between both countries on several occasions.

A list of 492 students has been shared with the Chinese Embassy with the request to treat them as a priority for return to China.

“It has been raised by the prime minister, the foreign minister, the foreign secretary and the respective embassies. Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood raised the issue with the Chinese ambassador in September and pursuant to that meeting, the Ministry of Education designated the Higher Education Commission as the lead organisation and nominated focal persons from HEC and Ministry of Education to work in coordination with the Chinese embassy,” he explained.

In this regard, the spokesperson said that China’s policy is not country-specific but it applies uniformly to all international students as per the COVID-19 situation in that country. “Chinese authorities have been extremely cautious since the outbreak of new variants.

It may be noted that the students from any South Asian country have not returned to China so far. We understand China is undertaking a comprehensive review of policy on students’ return that is expected to be completed soon.

Students from Pakistan will be prioritised whenever a decision is made for a phased and gradual return of international students to China,” he said.

The policy is expected to factor in a prevailing pandemic situation where the university is based, stage of course completion, vaccination status and other factors.

Originally published in The News