Last update: Sun, 14 Feb 2016 04am

Indo-Pak dialogue: FO terms meeting 'icebreaker'

Pakistan on Thursday described the recent meeting of its foreign secretary with his Indian counterpart as an "icebreaker" towards resumption of dialogue process between the two neighbours. In her weekly press briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam stated that she would not characterise the meeting between the two foreign secretaries as failure, as reported in some sections of media.

"I would not like to characterize it as failure. India had characterised it as a visit in the context of SAARC. We said that it is a visit that is taking place in lieu of the August visit [unilaterally called off by India last year] as an ice breaker. It is a process," she said, adding the meeting was held in a constructive and positive atmosphere.

She was referring to the recent meeting of Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar in Islamabad in which the two top diplomats had agreed to work together for addressing each other's concerns.

Asked whether any documented evidence was shared with the Indian Foreign Secretary regarding Indian involvement in Balochistan and Fata, she declined to go into details at this stage. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, after meeting with Indian counterpart, had said that Pakistan also raised the issue of Indian involvement as far as unrest in Balochistan and Fata is concerned.

To another query, the spokesperson said the menace of terrorism is a problem that affects all particularly the region. "We have our concerns, India has its own. Hence, this issue needs to be addressed in a co-operative manner," she said.

She pointed out that Pakistan has suffered the most because of terrorism, adding the country has done more than any other country to counter terrorism. "We accept similar approach from other countries," she added.

About the Indian blame-game, Tasnim Aslam said that it is not a good approach to put blame of every terrorist attack on others, adding Pakistan expects investigations should be conducted about any terror attack prior to pointing fingers at others.

Asked whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was visiting Saudi Arabia in the context of the joint efforts initiated by the kingdom and Turkey to forge "Sunni Unity" against rising challenges in the Islamic World, the spokesperson termed it a "speculative" query, saying Pakistan does not look at Muslim Ummah through sectarian, racial, or ethnic prism. "Pakistan always stood for the unity of the Muslim Ummah," she added.

About possible Pak-Saudi joint cooperation against the ISIS, she said that terrorism is a menace that no country can fight alone, adding we cooperate with other countries and also need their cooperation.

She added that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met King Salman met on Wednesday and the two leaders underscored the need for close and brotherly relations between the two countries. She said that they also identified a number of fields for enhanced bilateral cooperation, including energy, trade, investment, security and of course, counter-terrorism efforts.

Responding to a question about the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, she said that Pakistan has been suggesting a responsible drawdown. However, she added that it was essentially for the Afghan government to decide how long they require foreign troops and what kind of assistance they expect from other partners.

To another query, the spokesperson did not confirm the reported visit of Qari Din Mohammad, Afghan Taliban negotiator, to Pakistan. However, she said that the official visits between Pakistan and Afghanistan take place regularly. "We have said it and I would reiterate it again that we support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process and we would facilitate it to the every possible extent," she added.

About the recent arrest of some Afghan diplomats in Peshawar, she said that under the National Action Plan for counter-terrorism, the security agencies are actively pursuing the terrorist elements and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has introduced a new Tenant Information System, under which all tenants have to register with the police.

On 26 February 2015, during a regular security check at an apartment building in Peshawar, she said that some people were taken to police station to ascertain their credentials and it turned out that two employees of the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar, who were not registered with the Police as tenants, were among them.

"Once diplomatic credentials of the Consulate's employees were established, they were immediately released...The incident was inadvertent," she said, adding Pakistan scrupulously follows internationally accepted diplomatic norms as well as Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations.

She said that all concerned have been advised to be careful in dealing with diplomats to avoid any future recurrence. The spokesperson also advised all diplomats to inform the local authorities about their location to obviate possibility of such incidents.

About the reported arrest of an Iranian national and consequent request by Iranian authorities to hand him over to Tehran, the spokesperson said that there were media reports about the arrest of Abdul Salam Sattar Regi, an Iranian national on February 28, 2015 in Balochistan.

"So far, there is no confirmation of this news. We are in contact with concerned Federal and Provincial authorities to check the veracity of media report regarding his arrest," she said, adding that the government has received a request from Iranian Consulate in Quetta for Consular access to Regi and not for his extradition.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2015