–Premier says Pakistan is doing its best for peace in Afghanistan and it hopes all stakeholders will soon come to a settlement
–Says Kashmir crisis isn’t getting the attention it deserves, urges int’l community to play an active role in resolving it
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that any escalation of the tensions between Iran United States would be “disastrous” for the country, which is why the government was trying to defuse the situation.
He said this in an interview with German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) which was held at the Prime Minister House in the federal capital and published on Thursday.
Responding to a question by DW Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl about the difficulty Pakistan faces in balancing its relationship with its neighbours, the premier said, “It’ is true that we live in a difficult neighbourhood and we have to balance our actions. For instance, Saudi Arabia is one of Pakistan’s greatest friends and has always been there for us. Then we have Iran, with which we have always maintained a good relationship.”
“Therefore, a military conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran would be disastrous for Pakistan. We are trying our best to make sure that ties between these two countries do not deteriorate. It is a region that cannot afford another conflict,” he added.
The prime minister said Pakistan is also “doing its best” to bring peace to Afghanistan. “It is a country that has suffered so much in the past 40 years. We pray that the Taliban, the Americans and the Afghan government achieve peace,” he added.
His comments come a week after the United States and Iran came to the brink of war after Iran launched missile attacks on US-led forces in Iraq, in retaliation for the US drone strike on Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani whose killing raised fears of a wider war in the Middle East.
The situation de-escalated after US President Donald Trump, while delivering a televised address, extended an olive branch to the “people and leaders” of Iran to work together for “shared priorities”. In the same breath, he announced more “punishing” economic sanctions against Tehran.
Taking note of the dangerously high tensions, PM Imran sent Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to Tehran and Riyadh to encourage exercising of “maximum restraint” in the dispute. Qureshi is currently in Washington as part of his efforts to reduce tensions between Iran and the US.
When asked whether he would be interested in holding talks with his Indian counterpart, the premier said, “After I became prime minister, I made an effort to talk to the Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In my first speech as prime minister, I said that if India moved one step forward, we would take two steps toward them to resolve our differences. But I soon came to know that India did not respond well to my offer because of the RSS’ ideology. It became quite clear last year when it unilaterally annexed Kashmir, which is a disputed territory between Pakistan and India according to several United Nations (UN) resolutions.”
Speaking about the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), he said, “We invite anyone from anywhere in the world to visit the Pakistan side of Kashmir and then go to the Indian side. Let them decide.”
“Azad Kashmir holds free and fair elections and it elects its own government. Like any other administration, they have their problems. But as I said, let us invite observers from all over the world. I assure you that they can go to the Pakistan side of Kashmir but won’t be allowed on the Indian side,” he added.
“Let the people of Kashmir decide what they want. Pakistan is ready for a referendum or a plebiscite. Let them decide whether they want to remain with Pakistan or to be independent,” he further said.
When asked whether he was satisfied with international media’s converge of the Kashmir crisis, PM Imran said, “Sadly, yes. Consider the sort of media attention the Hong Kong protests are getting. The tragedy of Kashmir is much greater. Unfortunately, commercial interests are more important for Western countries. India is a big market and that is the reason behind the lukewarm response to what is happening to some 8 million people in Kashmir, as well as to minorities in India. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is blatantly against minorities, and particularly against the 200 million Muslims in India. The silence of the world on all of this is mainly because of commercial interests. Also, strategically, India is supposed to be a counterbalance to China, and therefore you see a completely different approach to the two conflicts.”
He also said that Germany can play a huge role in this regard. “Germany is the strongest country in Europe and plays a big part in the European Union (EU). When I spoke to Chancellor Angela Merkel, I tried to explain these issues to her; about what is happening in India. And she actually made a statement about it when she visited India,” he added.