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Want peace, but enabling environment must come from India, says Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf

In interview to Indian Express, Yusuf also says 'Kashmir remains an integral issue to Pakistan', there has been a 'qualitative change' in region after India scrapped Article 370.

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New Delhi: Pakistan wants to be “at peace with India” but the “enabling environment” has to come from New Delhi, the country’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has said in an interview with The Indian Express published Thursday.

“We do want to move forward, but the enabling environment has to come from India,” said Yusuf, adding that the “prevailing ideology” of the Indian government has blocked all avenues of communication.

“Pakistan wants to be at peace with India. But the sad reality is that India is now in a situation where the prevailing ideology of the Indian government, if I may say so, has blocked all avenues, because the conversation with us is not rational,” he added.

Yusuf’s comment comes weeks after Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled Pakistan’s first-ever National Security Policy (NSP), in which the country said it does not seek hostility with India for the next 100 years.

Also read: Pakistan PM Imran Khan hits out at Modi govt’s ‘continued silence’ over Dharam Sansad event

‘Kashmir remains an integral issue to Pakistan’

During the interview, Yusuf also argued that Kashmir remains an integral issue to Pakistan.

Asked if Pakistan is open to resuming trade with India, without making it conditional to demands on Kashmir, the NSA said: “Because you want to move to open up a relationship and connectivity and hope that we can move forward does not mean that you basically give up on your cardinal national interests.”

“Kashmir remains an integral issue to Pakistan,” he said, adding that there has been a “qualitative change” in Kashmir following the Indian government’s revocation of Article 370 in the region on 5 August 2019.

Last February, in a significant move aimed at reducing tensions, the Indian and Pakistani armies recommitted themselves to a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

According to Yusuf, however, this was a “tactic” to release the pressure that New Delhi was facing on Kashmir from the West. Pakistan agreed to it “because lives were being lost” and hence, he said this is the reason that he has “come out of” the backchannel process.

He also reiterated that Pakistan has invited India to attend the SAARC Summit and has not “foreclosed all options for engagement” with India.

“We have just invited India to the SAARC Summit. India is the one that said we don’t want to show up,” Yusuf claimed.

‘Afghanistan as a major opportunity’

Asked why India’s request for a land route to Afghanistan through Pakistan to send humanitarian supplies has not been set up, Yusuf suggested that after the Pakistan Cabinet approved this request last August, New Delhi didn’t follow through.

“Pakistan formally approved, our cabinet approved, we announced. But not one grain of wheat has crossed Pakistan, because I actually think that was a publicity stunt, because India thought Pakistan would refuse,” he said.

The NSA also said he saw Afghanistan as a “major opportunity”, when asked if the instability coming out of the country was seen as a national security issue for Islamabad.

“But we are also seeing Afghanistan as a major opportunity if things stabilise, so that connectivity to Central Asia, which is fundamental to achieve our economic vision, takes off,” he said.

‘CPEC is going to go from strength to strength’

Noting that Beijing is Islamabad’s “closest strategic partner”, the NSA said Pakistan is willing to move forward with India on a geo-economic platform if New Delhi “plays ball”.

“(Pakistan wants) to move forward on a geo-economic platform, connectivity, development partnerships. And if our eastern flank is closed, we are not going to wait,” he said.

“CPEC is going to go from strength to strength, we are going to focus more on our western border, and open up to Central Asia and Eurasia… When it’s the right time, hopefully, we will open up the east if India plays ball in a way that’s sensible,” he added.

Asked about Pakistan’s economic dependence on China, Yusuf argued that the debt is a small percentage of Pakistan’s overall debt.

He also argued against the Quad grouping by saying, “I think we now need to find congruence to come together on economic platforms, offer economic bases to each other”.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: 8 reasons why India should accept Pakistan invite, attend SAARC summit


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