- “We will talk” if plan provided, PM Imran Khan tells Reuters.
- Relations soured again in 2019 over Kashmir dispute.
- “Taliban feel they have won the war,” he says.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is ready to restart talks with India if New Delhi provides a roadmap towards restoring the previous status of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday.
In 2019, India withdrew IOJK’s autonomy in order to tighten its grip over the territory, sparking outrage in Pakistan, the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.
“If there is a roadmap, then, yes, we will talk,” PM Imran Khan told Reuters at his official residence in Islamabad.
Previously, PM Imran Khan and his government had held that India would have to first reverse its 2019 steps for any normalisation process to begin.
“Even if they give us a roadmap, that these are the steps that we will take to basically undo what they did, which is illegal, against international law and United Nations resolutions… then that is acceptable,” Khan said.
India’s external affairs ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Kashmir has been a flashpoint since India and Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947, and they have fought two wars over the region.
India has repeatedly committed rights violations in Kashmir. In 2019, a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan.
PM Imran Khan said he has always wanted a “civilised” and “open” relationship with India.
“It is common sense that if you want to reduce poverty in the subcontinent, the best way is to trade with each other,” he said, referring to the example of the European Union.
Pakistan in March deferred a decision by its top economic decision-making body to restart trade with India until Delhi reviewed its moves in Kashmir.
He said India had crossed a “red line” by revoking the autonomy of occupied Kashmir. “They have to come back for us to resume dialogue,” Khan said, adding, “at the moment there is no response from India”.
Earlier this year, Indian officials said the two governments had opened a back channel of diplomacy aimed at a modest roadmap to normalising ties over the next several months.
Afghan settlement before foreign troop pullout
Moreover, PM Imran Khan said Pakistan is pushing for a political settlement in Afghanistan before foreign troops leave later this year, to reduce the risk of civil war in its western neighbour.
The United States has said it will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan on September 11 after a two-decade presence.
More than 20 allied countries plan to follow suit.
“There is a lot of fear right now in Pakistan and I assure you that we are trying our level best that there is some sort of political settlement before the Americans leave,” PM Imran Khan said.
Violence in Afghanistan has risen sharply since the troop withdrawal announcement.
“Since the moment the Americans gave a date, of when they were going to leave Afghanistan … the Taliban feel they have won the war,” Khan said, adding it was not going to be easy to get concessions from the Taliban after the US decision.
PM Imran Khan said Pakistan would suffer the most, after Afghanistan itself, if there was civil war and a refugee crisis.
“And then there would be pressure on us to jump in and become a part of it,” he said.
He said his government had changed Pakistan’s decades-long policy of pushing for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan to ensure that there was a friendly government there.
“Any Afghan government chosen by the people is who Pakistan should deal with,” Khan said, adding that Pakistan “should not try to do any manipulation in Afghanistan”.
PM Imran Khan said a lot depended on US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, with Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s help, to carve out a settlement to avoid more bloodshed.