Press Trust of india

Willing to open Kartarpur crossing despite India’s ‘unfortunate’ decision: Pak

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Says will look for peaceful solution to Kashmir, the basic issue between Pakistan and India

Islamabad, Sep 23: Despite Indian government’s refusal to engage in dialogue, Pakistani authorities are willing to open the Kartarpur border crossing so that Sikh pilgrims can visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib without a visa, Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in an interview to ‘Hindustan Times’ on Saturday.

Talking to the Indian publication, Chaudhry said that while India’s decision to cancel the meeting — which was to be held between both countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly — was “unfortunate”, citizens should not be made to suffer.

“This is an issue of the ordinary people, Sikhs and other Indian pilgrims, and an issue of faith,” he said in a phone interview. “They shouldn’t suffer and we want to formalise the informal proposal the Pakistan army chief made to [Punjab State Minister Navjot Singh] Sidhu.”

Last month, Sidhu had visited Pakistan to attend Prime Minister Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony. He had also met Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who told him that “when [Sikh community] celebrates the 550th birthday of Baba Nanak  we’ll open the Kartarpur-Sahib Corridor.”

In his interview to Hindustan Times, Chaudhry reiterated the government’s stance to look for a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue — which he said was the basic issue between Pakistan and India — and said that New Delhi had “wasted a wonderful opportunity [for peace] by rejecting the prime minister’s offer”.

On Friday, the Indian government had cancelled the meeting following domestic pressure just a day after it agreed to it. Pakistan, in response, voiced its “deep disappointment” not only over the reasons cited for the cancellation of the meeting — the alleged killing of India’s Border Security Force’s soldier and Pakistan’s decision to release stamps honouring Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani — but also over “reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan”.

During his interview, Chaudhry said that while Pakistan had “several options” including war, the government considers it “foolish” to adopt a confrontational approach.

Pointing out that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, Chaudhry asked: “Can’t we look for a solution to our problems through dialogue?”

Chaudhry said that India’s sudden change of heart is a result of the country’s domestic problems. He pointed out that elections in India were a few months away and “anti-Pakistan rhetoric sells” in the country.

He also rubbished India’s accusations of Pakistan’s interference in Jammu and Kashmir.

“It is wrong to hold Pakistan responsible for the ongoing struggle in held Kashmir,” he said, but reiterated that: “Pakistan supports Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom.”

He further said that Pakistani authorities had “solid evidence” of Indian interference in Balochistan.

Kulbhushan Jadhav — “an Indian spy” who is under the custody of Pakistan’s armed forces — is sufficient proof of India’s interference in Balochistan, Chaudhry said.

He said that Pakistan was ready to hold talks on every issue, but the efforts cannot remain one-sided.

“We cannot change our neighbours,” the information minister said. “India has to decide [its future strategy].”

Pertinently, the Pakistan Army on Saturday said it is “ready for war” but chooses to walk the path of peace in the interest of its people.

These comments came in response to Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s remark that “stern action” is needed to “avenge” the brutal killing of Indian soldiers.

In an interview to Dunya TV, Pakistan Army spokesperson Asif Ghafoor said the country has a long-standing record of fighting terrorism and “we know the price for peace”, ‘The Dawn’ reported.

Earlier in the day, commenting on the recent brutal killing of a BSF soldier and three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir, General Rawat in Jaipur said stern action is needed “to avenge the barbarism by terrorists and Pakistan Army against Indian soldiers”.

“We need to take stern action to avenge the kind of barbarism that terrorists and the Pakistan Army have been carrying against our soldiers. It is time to give it back to them in the same coin but not by resorting to similar kind of barbarism. I think the other side must also feel the same pain,” he said at a press conference here.

Rawat insisted that action against Pakistan was needed but not in a barbaric manner.

Refuting India’s claim of Pakistani soldiers killing the BSF soldier, Ghafoor said, “We have struggled to achieve peace in the last two decades. We can never do anything to disgrace any soldier.”

“They (India) have in the past as well laid the blame on us for mutilating the body of a fallen soldier. We are a professional army. We never engage in such acts,” he added.

“We (Pakistan Army) are ready for war but choose to walk the path of peace in the interest of the people of Pakistan, the neighbours and the region,” the spokesperson said.

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