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Pak wants ‘uninterrupted’ dialogue with India: Qureshi

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Islamabad, Aug 20:  Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi today extended the hand of friendship to India by offering “uninterrupted” dialogue to resolve all the outstanding issues, saying it is the “only wise course” as the two countries cannot afford any “adventurism”.

Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived following a spate of militant attacks on Indian military bases by Pakistan-based militant groups since January 2016. India has made it clear that it will not hold dialogue with Pakistan as “terrorism and talks cannot go hand-in-hand”.

Qureshi, who was sworn-in as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister by President Mamnoon Hussain today, addressed the media soon.

Qureshi was the foreign minister from 2008 to 2011 under the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government when the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks took place. He was in New Delhi at the time of Mumbai attacks.

The new foreign minister said Pakistan wants to rebuild ties with eastern and western neighbours and create peace in the region.

He said Pakistan wants to resolve all issues with India through talks.

“We need a continued uninterrupted dialogue. It is the only wise course for us,” he said.

Qureshi, the vice-president of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj sent a letter yesterday to congratulate Prime Minister Imran Khan and mentioned about talks to resolve issues.

“I welcome her letter,” he said.

“I want to say to Indian Foreign Minister that we are not only neighbours but also nuclear powers. We have old issues and we both know what these issues are. We need to address these issues,” he said.

Qureshi said that the two countries cannot afford any adventurism due to close proximity.

“We cannot afford any adventurism as response time is so short. The only option is to engage with each other. We cannot live in enmity and we have to accept that there are outstanding issues,” he said.

He said Kashmir is an issue and both countries know about it.

He said former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Lahore and Islamabad and recognised the reality of Pakistan and the issue of Kashmir.

“Whether we wish or not, Kashmir is an issue and both countries have recognised it. In my opinion there is no option other than talks to resolve it,” he said.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in his maiden address to the nation yesterday said Pakistan will hold talks with all its neighbours to normalise ties as without it peace cannot be brought in the country.

Earlier, in his address after leading his party to victory in the general elections on July 25, Khan had said Pakistan is ready to improve its ties with India and his government would like the leaders of the two sides to resolve all disputes, including the “core issue” of Kashmir, through talks.

“If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but at least (we) need a start,” he had said.

Talking about Afghanistan, Qureshi said he will make a phone call to the foreign minister of Afghanistan and also visit Kabul with a “solid message” that both countries have same destiny.

“There will be no peace in Pakistan without peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

“I want to tell people of Afghanistan to understand each other’s problems and bilaterally try to resolve all issues,” he said.

On Pakistan’s uneasy ties with the US, he said there is trust deficit between the two countries but Islamabad wants to have good ties with Washington based on its interests.

Qureshi said that the foreign policy of the new government will be based on interests of Pakistan and it can be fine-tuned according to the needs of the nation.

He said that priority of Pakistan’s foreign policy will be “how we can change lives of common people through economic diplomacy.”

“Some forces have been trying to isolate the country but it will not happen now,” he said.

He said the new government will build national consensus on foreign affairs. “I will follow bipartisan approach on the issues of foreign policy,” Qureshi said.

No dialogue offer from Modi to Khan: Pak

Islamabad, Aug 20: Pakistan today clarified that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not “made an offer of a dialogue” in a letter to his new Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

A Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson said this in a statement issued in response to a query regarding reports in a section of the Indian media.

The spokesperson stressed that new Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had not stated that “the Indian Prime Minister had made an offer of a dialogue”, but had said that Modi in his letter to Khan had also mentioned something similar to what the foreign minister elucidated earlier “that the way forward was only through constructive engagement”.

The FO said the foreign minister was also briefed about the positivity and constructive environment prevailing during the meeting of former Pakistani law minister Ali Zafar with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during his visit to India on August 18 to attend the funeral of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The FO said Pakistan looks forward to a mutually beneficial, uninterrupted dialogue with India to resolve all issues.

“Any attempts to instigate controversy and vitiate the environment are counterproductive and against the spirit of responsible journalism,” said the spokesman.

Earlier, Qureshi in his first media interaction had also referred to the letter.

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