Islamabad, February 27: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday welcomed the ceasefire agreement with India but said the onus of creating an “enabling environment” for further progress in bilateral relations rests with New Delhi.
In his first comments since the militaries of India and Pakistan jointly announced on Thursday that they have agreed to strictly observe all agreements on the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) and other sectors, Khan said Pakistan remains ready to move forward to resolve “all outstanding issues” with India through dialogue.
“I welcome restoration of the ceasefire along the LOC. The onus of creating an enabling environment for further progress rests with India. India must take necessary steps to meet the long-standing demand & right of the Kashmiri people to self determination according to UNSC resolutions,” Khan tweeted.
“We have always stood for peace & remain ready to move forward to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue,” Khan said in a series of tweets.
India has told Pakistan that “talks and terror” cannot go together and has asked Islamabad to take demonstrable steps against terror groups responsible for launching various attacks on India.
On Thursday, India said it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan and is committed to resolving all issues bilaterally in a peaceful manner.
“On relations with Pakistan, as we have said earlier, India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We have always maintained that we are committed to addressing issues, if any, in a peaceful and bilateral manner,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in New Delhi.
India and Pakistan issued a joint statement on Thursday to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the LoC and other sectors after the hotline discussions by their Director Generals of Military Operations. The decision by the two countries came into effect from the midnight of February 24/25.
India and Pakistan signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003, but it has hardly been followed in letter and spirit over the past several years.
Prime minster Khan’s tweets on Saturday came on the second anniversary of Pakistan’s retaliatory airstrikes after the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets crossed the LoC and targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror training camp at Balakot on February 26, 2019.
The IAF warplanes hit the JeM camp to avenge the killing of 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in the Pulwama terror attack. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) retaliated the next day but the IAF foiled the attack.
Khan said Pakistan demonstrated to the world its “responsible behaviour” by returning the captured Indian pilot.
On the Kashmir issue, Khan said, India must take necessary steps to meet the long-standing demand and right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination according to UN Security Council resolutions.
New Delhi has told Islamabad that it has no locus standi to comment on the internal affairs of India, asserting that the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and will remain an integral part of the country.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Saturday that it was committed to peaceful coexistence and resolution of the Kashmir issue as per the UN resolution.
“As this day is commemorated, we once again make clear to the world community that Pakistan remains committed to peaceful coexistence and resolution of the long outstanding Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people, it said in a statement.
Separately, the PAF organised a special event to mark the second anniversary of its retaliatory strikes.
Addressing the event, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan said Pakistan’s desire for peace should not be misunderstood as a weakness, and Islamabad is capable of defending itself.
In a statement to mark the event, the Pakistan Army said “Pakistan stands for peace but when challenged, shall respond with full might.
In an editorial, the Dawn newspaper pointed out that no one should be under the illusion that the bitterness afflicting bilateral ties will magically disappear on the basis of one statement.
“Peace-building is a long and arduous process, and when the relationship is as complex as that of Pakistan and India, things will take time to fall into place,” it said.
The Express Tribune in an editorial termed the ceasefire agreement as a positive development. “The deal was long-awaited,” it said, adding that the agreement is a win for both countries and shows the importance of keeping lines of communication open even when relations are tense.
Ties between India and Pakistan soured after an attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on the Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.
The relationship dipped further after India’s warplanes pounded the JeM camp inside Pakistan in response to the Pulwama terror attack.
The relations nose-dived following the abrogation of Article 370 of India’s Constitution in August, 2019 that revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The move angered Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties with India and expelled the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. Pakistan also snapped all air and land links with India and suspended trade and railway services.
In June last year, India asked Pakistan to reduce the staff in its mission in New Delhi by half and announced a reciprocal trimming of staff strength in its high commission in Islamabad. India said its decision to downgrade the diplomatic ties was based on instances of involvement of Pakistani officials in “acts of espionage” and “dealings with terrorist organisations”. (PTI)