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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office on Friday emphatically stated that there has been no ongoing discussion within the government to resume the suspended trade relations with India following certain media reports claiming that the government has decided to resume the bilateral trade ties between the two countries.

Responding to the media queries during his weekly press briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar rejected the media reports and emphatically stated that no discussions were taking place to resume trade ties with India.

Pakistan suspended trade ties in August 2019 and also downgraded its diplomatic relations with India in reaction to the Indian government’s unilateral and illegal steps of August 5, 2019, through which the occupied Jammu and Kashmir was annexed illegally into India’s union territory.

Responding to a query with regard to the repeated allegations of the ‘US-backed regime change’ by former prime minister Imran Khan, the spokesperson said Pakistan wants broad-ranging, long-term, and stable relations with the United States for the benefit of the two countries.

“We have consistently said that we have to move on,” he said, adding that given the kind of activities that are taking place and the intense interaction at various levels between Pakistan and the US, the kind of assistance from the US in various fields, the bilateral relationship is very important.

“Don’t forget the assistance [from the US] that we received even in the past two years as Covid response that is very important. So, as far as this ministry and the political leadership is concerned, we recognize and a similar recognition is also there at the other end in Washington that this is an important relationship which we have to build on mutual trust, mutual interest, and mutual benefit,” he added.

When asked whether Pakistan is providing military assistance to Ukraine on the UN request as reported by certain media outlets, the spokesperson neither rejected nor confirmed any such assistance from Pakistan to Ukraine, saying “I am not here to comment or respond, to what I refer to as open source content or unverified information.” “So, I have no comment to offer on them,” he said.

Responding to another question about the economic crisis in Afghanistan, Iftikhar emphasized the need to unfreeze the Afghan assets to be used for the welfare and the benefit of the Afghan people.

He said Pakistan welcomed the initial steps taken by the US Administration in that regard and it would welcome similar measures in future as well. He said the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan needs to be addressed with some sense of urgency.

“There should be no strings attached toward the unfreezing of the Afghan assets abroad and the Afghan interim authorities should be allowed to utilise them for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan,” he added.

To another question regarding the acquisition of arms by India, Iftikha said it has been a longstanding concern of Pakistan, adding that India’s unbridled acquisition of arms over the years has started an arms race and created an imbalance of power in South Asia. He pointed out that over 70 percent of military capability, India has acquired so far, is deployed against Pakistan, “which is a cause of serious concern for us.” He added that Pakistan has constantly expressed its concerns at various world forums, including the United Nations with regard to the massive arms build up by the Indian government.

The spokesperson also announced that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will be undertaking a visit to Qatar next week, whereas, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is also visiting four European countries, including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in the coming days.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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