Pakistan never shied away from 'meaningful' talks with India: FO2 April 2021
By Sajjad Hussain Islamabad: Pakistan said on Friday that it never shied away from 'meaningful' talks with India but normalisation of ties was linked with India revisiting its 2019 decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri was asked about the Cabinet's decision to not allow import of cotton and sugar after it was approved by a high-level body. He said 'the Federal Cabinet deferred the Economic Coordination Committee's (ECC) decision to import sugar, cotton and cotton yarn from India' because 'normalisation' of relations with India would not be possible without India revisiting its decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday rejected the proposal of the high-powered committee to import cotton from India, with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi asserting that there can be no normalisation of ties until New Delhi reverses its decision in 2019 to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan's U-turn on Thursday came a day after ECC, under newly-appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar, recommended importing cotton and sugar from India, lifting a nearly two-year long ban on its import from the neighbouring country amidst tensions over the Kashmir issue. India has said that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. India has said the onus is on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror and hostility. India has also told Pakistan that 'talks and terror' cannot go together and has asked Islamabad to take demonstrable steps against terror groups responsible for launching various attacks on India. The Foreign Office spokesman said there is no change in Pakistan's 'principled position' on the Jammu and Kashmir issue, however, Islamabad was not against 'meaningful' talks to resolve the outstanding issues. 'Pakistan has never shied away from talks and has always underscored the need for a 'meaningful dialogue' and peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues with India, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir,' he said. 'Our desire for regional peace has been clearly spelled out by Prime Minister Imran Khan on a number of occasions stating that, 'If India takes one step towards peace, Pakistan will take two',' he said. He said the recent statements by Pakistani leadership showed Pakistan's desire for peace and security in the region but the onus is on India to create a conducive environment for a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue. Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in Pakistan. Subsequent attacks, including one on an Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship. The ties strained further after India's war planes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack in 2019 in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed. India's move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 angered Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties with India and expelled the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. Pakistan also snapped all air and land links with India and suspended trade and railway services.