Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in the “driving seat” in handling relations with India, Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit has said, seeking to dispel the perception that its powerful army called the shots.
Basit’s remarks assume significance as foreign policy experts in India feel that Pakistan army scuttles any forward movement in Indo-Pak ties. At present, the engagement between the two South Asian neighbours is suspended following series of attacks carried out in India by Pakistan-based terror groups.
However, in a freewheeling interview to PTI, Basit said categorically that the two countries cannot “escape” from bilateral engagement. They cannot live in “perpetual hostility”, he asserted.
“We are very happy that our army is one of the best in the world. At the same time, our democracy has taken deep roots during the last 8-9 years. And I have no doubt that our prime minister, who is an elected prime minister, is in the driving seat when it comes to policy matters. It is the civilian side which calls the shots.
Read | Pak PM Sharif, Army Chief agree not to come under any pressure on Kulbhushan Jadhav
“In all democratic countries including India, you do take inputs from all the stakeholders and that is what we also do in Pakistan. There is nothing out of the ordinary in that. Our relations with India are very important part of our foreign policy, So, if there are inputs from our security agencies, there is nothing extraordinary,” he said.
The Pakistan high commissioner also noted that the pattern in Indo-Pak ties was “one step forward and two steps backward”.
Therefore, it is important that the two countries should be engaged in “irreversible” and build on the past progress and not squander them, he added.
“It is unnatural not to talk or not have normal relations. It is absolutely incumbent on both sides to keep the door ajar (for talks)...We cannot live in perpetual hostility,” Basit said.
He also said he was convinced that sooner or later, the two countries will come to the negotiating table.
Read | Kulbhushan Jadhav death sentence: Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif says he wants cooperation rather than conflict with India
On the reasons for ties to sink after a promising start at the beginning of the Modi government’s tenure in 2014 when Sharif had come to attend the swearing-in ceremony and the bonhomie shown by the two leaders, Basit said, “Obviously from the Indian view point Pathankot was one incident.”
Announcement of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD) during the visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan in December 2015 was a “one of the biggest achievements” of past three years, he said.
But after the Pathankot incident, the visit by the Indian foreign secretary, who was to come to Pakistan on January 15, 2016, was cancelled.
The envoy also said the two sides already have a framework in the CBD and it would be “scheduling of meetings” on various issues.