Want peace… learned lessons from 3 wars: Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif’s outreach

IN REMARKS that are being seen in Delhi as conciliatory, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called for “serious and sincere talks” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on “burning issues like Kashmir”. He also said his country has learned its lesson after three wars with India that “only brought more misery, poverty, and unemployment”, and wants peace with its neighbor.

Speaking in an interview to Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV, Sharif sought the intervention of UAE ruler Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to bring India and Pakistan together for talks. He said that he has given his “word of honor” that he will talk to the Indian side with “sincerity of purpose”.

Pointing out that India and Pakistan were nuclear powers, the Pakistan Prime Minister asked if “a war breaks out, who will live to tell what happened?”

After the interview was tweeted by Pakistan’s ruling party, Sharif’s PML(N), his office drew a firmer line and said he has consistently maintained that Pakistan and India must resolve their bilateral issues, especially the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir, through dialogue and peaceful means.

“My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Modi is that let’s sit down on the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning issues like Kashmir. It is up to us to live peacefully and make progress or quarrel with each other and waste time and resources,” Sharif said in the interview.

“We have had three wars with India, and they have only brought more misery, poverty, and unemployment to the people. We have learned our lesson, and we want to live in peace with India, provided we are able to resolve our genuine problems,” he said.

“India is our neighbor country, we are neighbors. Let’s be very blunt, even if we are not neighbors by choice, we are there forever and it is up to us for us to live peacefully and progress or quarrel with each other and waste time and resources. That is up to us,” he said.

Sharif also raised the issue of Kashmir and said “Pakistan wants peace but what is happening in Kashmir should be stopped”. He alleged that “flagrant violation of human rights are taking place, day in and day out” in Kashmir, reiterating the Pakistan line that has been dismissed by India.

Sharif said the people of Kashmir deserved “whatever semblance of autonomy was given to the Kashmiris in the Constitution, under Article 370 which (was) revoked in August 2019”.

Sharif also raised another issue that has added to the divide between the two countries, claiming that “minorities over there are being grossly mishandled” — another charge that India has repeatedly dismissed.

Explained

The Pakistan PM’s remarks, coupled with China lifting its block to let the LeT deputy chief be listed as a global terrorist, is being seen as an important signal to Delhi. India has welcomed the terror listing but is silent on Sharif’s remarks. Delhi will closely watch the interplay between Pakistan’s civilian government and army before taking any step.

“I’m not going to go into detail, suffice it to say that this must stop so that a message can go around the globe that India is ready to have talks and we are more than ready,” he said.

Sharif said that both countries have engineers, doctors, and skilled laborers. “We want to utilize these assets for prosperity and to bring peace to the region so that both nations can grow… Pakistan does not want to waste resources on bombs and ammunition. We are nuclear powers, armed to the teeth, and if God forbid, a war breaks out, who will live to tell what happened?” he said.

Sharif described the UAE ruler as a “brother of Pakistan” who has “good relations with India”.

“He can play a very important role to bring the two countries on the talking table. And I give my word of honor that we will be talking to Indians with sincerity of purpose, but it takes two to tango,” Sharif, bringing his hands together in a clap to emphasize the point.

In a statement later, Sharif’s office said, “In reference to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s interview to Al Arabiya channel, the spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office has said that the Prime Minister had consistently maintained that Pakistan and India must resolve their bilateral issues, especially the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir, through dialogue and peaceful means”.

It said, “However, the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated on record that talks can only take place after India had reversed its illegal action of August 5, 2019; without India’s revocation of this step, negotiations are not possible. The settlement of the Kashmir dispute must be in accordance with the UN resolutions & the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.”

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