By Asif Shahzad
ISLAMABAD -Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has made a conditional offer to his Indian counterpart to open talks on all outstanding issues between them, including disputed Kashmir, which he believes could be facilitated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is let’s sit down at the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning issues, like Kashmir,” Sharif said in an interview with Al Arabiya news channel, telecast by Pakistan’s state run TV on Tuesday.
However, a statement issued by Sharif’s office after the interview aired added that such talks would only be possible if India restored the autonomous status in the part of Kashmir it rules that was revoked in 2019.
“Without India’s revocation of this step, negotiations are not possible,” it said.
The Indian foreign affairs ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. New Delhi has ignored such calls from Pakistan on Kashmir’s status in the past.
In the interview, Sharif said he had taken up the issue with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on his recent visit to the Emirates.
“He’s a brother of Pakistan. He also has good relations with India. He can play a very important role to bring the two countries on the talking table,” Sharif said.
The two arch-rival nuclear powers have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947. Two of the wars were over Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan region, which both the nations claim. Each controls half of the region.
The two neighbours came close to war again in 2019, when India launched an air strike inside Pakistan to target what New Delhi said was a militant training facility.
Tensions were again inflamed when India unilaterally revoked the autonomous status of its part of Kashmir later in 2019, which Sharif said resulted in “flagrant” human rights violations.
India has faced a decades-long insurgency in its part of Kashmir which is accuses Pakistan of stoking – an accusation Islamabad denies.
Official talks between the two countries have been suspended since then, although there have been some backdoor diplomacy attempts to resume negotiations – one brokered by the UAE in 2021.
Sharif said the wars between the two countries brought nothing except misery, poverty and unemployment.
“We want to alleviate poverty, achieve prosperity and provide education, health facilities and employment to our people, and not waste our resources on bombs and ammunition, that’s the message I want to give to PM Modi,” he said.