NEW DELHI: Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday that India is ready to hold talks with Pakistan before or after the general elections, provided Islamabad shunned its support for terrorist activities carried out on Indian soil.
Addressing a press conference on the completion of four years in power of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, The Indian external affairs minister said, “Elections are not a hurdle to talks. We are ready for talks and this has been our stance in the past as well. But there is a caveat: terror and talks cannot go together.”
Swaraj said that a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan was only possible if it shunned terrorism, adding that talks cannot be held when people were dying on the border. “When people are dying on the border, talk of dialogue is not appropriate,” she said.
However, she admitted that the National Security Advisers (NSAs) of Pakistan and India were holding talks regularly. She also said that talks were ongoing between the coast guards of both the countries on issues pertaining to maritime security.
When asked whether India was softening its position on Pakistan with a maritime dialogue taking place in Delhi on Monday, Swaraj replied in the negative. It merits mention here that last year, India called off these talks due to tensions generated between the two neighbours on the issue of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was caught in Pakistan’s Balochistan province by security forces.
The Indian minister also lashed out at Pakistan over the passage of the Gilgit-Baltistan Order-2018, which revolves around administrative control of the region, saying that Pakistan always distorted history. “Pakistan tries to teach us history and geography,” Sushma said.
She also said that India had already lodged a protest over the Gilgit-Baltistan Order-2018, on Sunday. She further added, “The answer we got (from Islamabad) in this regard was amusing. They tried to teach us history. Only thing I felt while reading their answer was, ‘look who’s talking’.”
Replying to a query regarding a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) minus Pakistan, she said the South Asian bloc would not remain a grouping if a country left the group.