FOREIGN Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry told a press briefing in Islamabad on Friday that Kashmir remains central to any meaningful engagement with India.
Replying to questions about back-channel contacts between India and Pakistan and chances of a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, he said Pakistan believes two sides need to discuss all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir with a view to seeking peaceful resolution of this long outstanding dispute as per international legitimacy.
It is timely clarification by the Foreign Office, which is the most relevant platform for foreign policy issues, as rumours are rife about change in the stance of Pakistan and a spate of reports on back channel contacts between the two countries.
Something, of course, happened behind the curtain leading to melting of ice in relations that are gradually moving towards normalization, stoking apprehensions that the country was once again conceding more in its renewed engagement with India than getting anything substantial in return.
No one wants continuation of tension or hostilities with India, as such an environment is the biggest hurdle in the way of economic and social uplift of the people of the two countries.
However, there is total consensus in Pakistan that the objective of promoting regional peace and security should be realized without compromising the country’s just and principled stand on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
The spokesperson has rightly pointed out that durable peace, security and development in the region hinge on peaceful resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
But it is also to be noted that so far there is no indication as yet that New Delhi was ready to discuss the dispute in a meaningful and result-oriented manner.
There should be no undue concession to India as it would shake trust and confidence of Kashmiris, who have pinned great hopes on Pakistan in their just and legitimate freedom struggle.