Defence minster hopeful of thaw in Islamabad-New Delhi ties after Indian elections

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Defence Minister Khawaja Asif during an inverview. — Reuters/File
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif during an inverview. — Reuters/File
  • Epicentre of terrorism in Pakistan is Afghanistan: defence minister.
  • Says US should give alternative solution to Pak-Iran gas pipeline project.
  • "Pakistan, China investigators found some leads in Bisham attack."

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Monday expressed hopes for betterment in bilateral ties with India after the neighbour comes out of its election phase commencing from April 19 and ending in June.

Regional arch-rivals — Islamabad and New Delhi — have a long history of strained relations, primarily due to Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) dispute which led to several wars while tensions usually rise on the occasions of countrywide elections in India.

“Our relations with India could be improved after elections there,” the defence minister expressed his views while speaking to reporters outside the Parliament House in Islamabad, adding that Pakistan and India ties have its "own background".

As the country which borders with China, India, Afghanistan, and Iran witnessed tensions with other neighbours, except for China, following crossborder attacks from Iran and Afghanistan, Asif is hopeful for a turn of event in terms of improvement of bilateral ties with New Delhi after the neighbour completes its upcoming election phase.

It is noteworthy to mention here that India will begin voting in phases starting April 19 to elect a new parliament, the world's largest election in which nearly one billion people are eligible to cast ballots, Reuters reported.

The election pits two-term strongman Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his regional allies against a bickering alliance of two dozen opposition parties, with surveys suggesting a comfortable win for Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Epicentre of recent wave of terrorism in Pakistan is Afghanistan until the neighbouring country takes decisive action against the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) safe havens there.

The defence minister said that he, along with a high-level delegation, visited Afghanistan to request the Taliban government there to take effective steps to stop terrorism. However, the solution proposed by Kabul was not practically possible, he added.

“Our options are now reducing day-by-day for the neighbour due to fluctuation in Afghan interim government’s attitude towards Pakistan,” Asif said. He added that Pakistan has always stood besides Afghanistan, rendered sacrifices for them, and even fought wars with them.

He stressed treatment of Pak-Afghan border like other borders around the globe which restricts cross-border movement to visa holders under international laws.

He was of the view that the movement of people from Afghanistan without visas allows terrorists to enter Pakistan.

He also signalled on behalf of the federal government taking concrete steps in the coming days to the complete elimination of terrorism.

Elaborating on ongoing probe into the attack on Chinese nationals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Asif said that joint investigation teams of Pakistan and China found some leads, and they would soon dig up all facts regarding the terrorist attack.

Five Chinese citizens, including a woman, and a Pakistani driver were killed when their vehicle was attacked in Shangla's Besham city as a suicide bomber crashed his explosives-laden vehicle into the car carrying the victims on March 26.

To a question, the minister replied that Islamabad is successfully fulfilling targets of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, the government would be able to provide relief to the nation after at least 1.5 years.

He detailed that cases related to tax recovery worth Rs2,700 are currently pending, whereas, billions of rupees are being drained from the national exchequer due to electricity and gas theft. He, however, was optimistic of providing relief to the masses within next six months by taking effective moves.

To another question regarding restrictions on the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project, Asif replied that the United States should give an alternative solution to fulfilling energy needs of the country. He added that Washington must have to consider weak economic situation of Islamabad as the country reserves right to purchase gas on low prices from its neighbour.