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Pakistan’s defence minister says relations with India can improve after Lok Sabha elections


Pakistan, India Pakistan relations, Lok Sabha elections
Image Source : REUTERS Pakistan’s financial minister Khawaja Asif

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Sunday exuded hope that thorny relations with India can be improved after the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are held in the neighbouring country. His remarks came after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism at nearly an “industrial level” and India “will not skirt this problem anymore”.

“Our relations with India could be improved after elections there,” Asif said while speaking to reporters outside the Parliament House in Islamabad on Monday, adding that the bilateral ties between the two countries have their “own background”. India and Pakistan have a long history of strained relations, primarily due to the Kashmir issue and the cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

In 2019, Pakistan downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi after the Indian government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the State into two Union Territories. The decision undermined the environment for holding talks between the neighbours, says Pakistan.

A diplomatic shift in Pakistan?

Pakistan has been insisting that the onus of improving the ties was on India and urging it to undo its “unilateral” steps in Kashmir as a sort of pre-condition to start the talks. However, India has dismissed the suggestion and made it clear to Pakistan that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were integral and inalienable parts of the country.

India has also maintained that measures taken by the government for socio-economic development and good governance are its internal matter. It said that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan while insisting that the onus is on Islamabad to create an environment that is free of terror and hostility for such an engagement.

However, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar last week said Islamabad will “seriously” consider restoring trade ties with India that remained suspended since August 2019, indicating a potential shift in diplomatic stance towards the neighbouring nation. He highlighted the eagerness of cash-strapped Pakistan’s business community to resume trade activities with India. “Pakistani businessmen want trade with India to resume,” the foreign minister said on Saturday.

Pakistan’s relations with other countries

Apart from India, Pakistan’s relations with its other neighbour Afghanistan is also in shambles, mostly due to Islamabad’s allegations of Taliban giving shelter to militants who frequently launch attacks on Pakistani soil. It has also witnessed tensions with Iran, following cross-border attacks from Tehran and Kabul.

Talking about Afghanistan, 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, but the solution proposed by Afghanistan was not practically possible. “Our options are now reducing day-by-day for the neighbour due to fluctuation in the Afghan interim government’s attitude towards Pakistan,” Asif said. He added that Pakistan has always stood beside Afghanistan, rendered sacrifices for them, and even fought wars with them.

(with PTI inputs)

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