Sajjad Hussain

India-Pak considering some steps to ‘narrow the gap’: Pak FO

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Islamabad: Encouraged by the “recent overtures”, Pakistan and India are considering some future steps, including opening the Kartarpur border for the Sikh pilgrims, to “narrow the gap” between the two neighbours, the Foreign Office said today.

“In the wake of recent overtures by both Pakistan and India to lessen the ever-widening gulf between the two neighbours, some future steps are under consideration,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said, without sharing the details.

“I will share details with you, in due course,” he said at the weekly media briefing here.

“We are making efforts to narrow the gap between Pakistan and India. The Kartarpur Corridor can be one of the moves in this direction,” he added.

Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan is located across the river Ravi, about four kilometres from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.

During cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu’s visit to Pakistan to attend the swearing-in ceremony of his friend Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had hinted at temporary opening of Kartarpur border on the occasion of Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary.

The 550th birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru, who breathed his last in Kartarpur, is being observed in November 2019.

Faisal said that India-Pakistan relations were a “complex conundrum.”

“There are no easy solutions to the difficult problems facing both the countries. Any move for peace will definitely ensure tranquility on the Line of Control and International Border and resolution of all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” he said.

He said that the “road (to peace) would be difficult, but I can assure you that we, both India and Pakistan, have to take this journey.”

The India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016.

The sentencing of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a Pakistani military court in April over espionage charges last year further deteriorated the bilateral relations.

To a question about “friendly countries” continuously asking Pakistan to become part of the Chabahar project despite Indian investments, Faisal said that Chabahar and Gwadar were both complementary projects.

“We are considering all the aspects and we want to move forward together. The presence of India (in Chabahar project) has nothing to do with Pakistan and benefit us,” he said.

Faisal also said that the informal session of the SAARC Council of Ministers take place every year on the sidelines of the UNGA Session in New York and “this year too the Informal Session will be held.”

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will lead the Indian delegation at the 73rd UN General Assembly session while Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will head the Pakistani delegation.

Earlier Pakistani media reports had said that the two leaders may meet on the sidelines of the UNGA session. (PTI)

US to give Imran space to improve relations with India

Washington: The Trump administration wants to give new Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan space to explore opportunities to improve relations with India, a senior Pentagon official has said.

Many new governments come to power in Islamabad and want to improve the relationship with India, but then soon face realities and all the difficulties, Randall G Schriver, US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs said at an event organised by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace here.

“We want to give the new prime minister of the new government of Pakistan space to explore where there may be opportunities to improve relations with India,” he said.

He was responding to a question from moderator Ashley Tellis from Carnegie on the triangular relationship between India, the US and Pakistan.

“But in terms of separating what was said during the campaign and what he said since the election, we want to give him space to find the opportunities to improve things with India,” Schriver said.

Responding to a question on giving space to Khan, he explained that this is in the context of India-Pakistan relationship and this does not indicate any change in the policy of the Trump administration with regard to Pakistan.         The Pentagon official insisted that this means no change in its policy towards Islamabad and its current approach of cutting financial assistance would continue.

“What I said about giving him space was really in the context of the India-Pakistan relationship. We’d certainly like to give him space to make the right decisions on a variety of things,” he said.

“But our approach of cutting assistance and pressuring Pakistan on their relationship with the Taliban, persuading them to come to the table, dealing with terrorist networks, that’ll be sustained. When I say give space, it’s not changing our approach or our policy. It is the context of developing opportunities between India and Pakistan,” Schriver said.

The Pentagon also cautioned Pakistan on seeking massive financial assistance from China, which risks its sovereignty.

“If you look at other examples where countries went all in, or largely in with China, the results have not been particularly good. There has been an erosion of sovereignty and an erosion of control. There are many examples of that,” he said.

“So, if our friends in Pakistan want to talk about a way out of that or want to talk about strengthening their economy and deal with that, I’m sure we’d be open to that and trying to work with Pakistan, work either bilaterally or through international institutions to try to get them on a better path,” Schriver said.

The US, he said, is not interested in a failed Pakistan by any stretch of the imagination.

“We want them to be successful. We want them to have sovereign control and not cede that to any outside party, including China. And the economic piece is probably going to be key to that,” he said.

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