Indo-Pak relations could be improved after elections in India: Defence Minister Asif

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Islamabad: Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has expressed hope for the betterment of ties with India after the general elections in the neighbouring country.

Asif’s comments came days after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Singapore said that Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism almost at an “industry level” and the mood in India now is not to overlook terrorists and it “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”.

Voting for 543 Lok Sabha seats in India will take place between April 19 and June 4, spread across seven phases.

Islamabad and New Delhi have a long history of strained relations, primarily due to the Kashmir issue as well as 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, Islamabad said, undermined the environment for holding talks between the neighbours.

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.

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.

New Delhi has also asserted that the constitutional measures taken by the Indian government to ensure socio-economic development and good governance in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are matters internal to India.

It has been maintaining 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.

Pakistan, which borders China, India, Afghanistan, and Iran has witnessed tensions with other neighbours, except for China, following cross-border attacks from Iran and Afghanistan.

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.

However, the solution proposed by Kabul was not practically possible, Geo News quoted him as saying.

“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.

He stressed the treatment of the Pak-Afghan border like other borders around the globe which restricts cross-border movement to visa holders under international laws.

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