By Asghar Ali Mubarak
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Tuesday said Pakistan would welcome the third-party facilitation by Saudi Arabia or any other country for resumption of dialogue with India.
“Pakistan is ready for third-party facilitation. It is India that has always shied away from it,” he said in a press conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).
Qureshi observed Riyadh was a friend but also had business ties with New Delhi, a big importer of Saudi crude oil. “If Saudi Arabia wants to play a role [in facilitating talks], we would welcome,” he said.
He recalled that the ceasefire agreement between Pakistan and India was welcomed by the world, including Saudi Arabia.
The foreign minister confirmed that there were “no formal talks” at the moment with India, however, said if India wanted it to resume it, it “must take the first step forward”.
“If India wants a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan, it has to review its policy on Kashmir and undo the revocation of their special status,” he said. Qureshi called upon India to give relief to the people of Kashmir, who were suffering from a prolonged military siege and the so-called search and cordon operations, and thus “pave way for a conducive environment for talks”.
To a question regarding his recent statement on Article-370 of the Indian constitution, he said Pakistan was firm on its stance that “Kashmir is not an internal matter of India”. “Pakistan has not taken any U-turn and will never do so. The dispute, which is at the agenda of United Nations Security Council with several resolutions on it, cannot be an internal matter of India,” he said.
“There is no ambiguity and Pakistan will continue highlighting the plight of Kashmiris at all international fora,” he added. By revoking Article 35-A, he said, India was attempting to distort the demography of the region and denying the Kashmiris their identity.
Moreover, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Tuesday that fruits of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia will be visible in the days to come.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the foreign minister billed the visit as “extraordinary”. “Ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are stabilising with the march of time,” he opined. One of the challenges confronting Pakistan at present is unemployment, FM Qureshi said and added steps will be taken to ensure people get job opportunities abroad.
“Saudi Arabia will dish out employment opportunities to a whopping 10 million people in future, a good chunk of which will be earmarked for workforce from Pakistan,” he disclosed. Qureshi said a Saudi delegation of senior officials will visit Pakistan after Eid to build upon the discussion that took place in Jeddah. Pakistan will get $500 million from Riyadh for various development projects, he revealed.
About Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to Kabul, he said the army chief held important meetings with Afghan officials the other day.
“Chances of restoration of peace in the region after yesterday’s meetings seem visible,” he pointed out. Pakistan will benefit the most from the Afghan peace as there are opportunities for trade between the two neighbouring countries, Qureshi said.