After beheadings, Pakistan hopes peace process won’t get derailed



Islamabad: Pakistan on Thursday hoped that the ceasefire violations along the Line of Control would not be a setback to or derail the peace process with India.

"You asked whether this will set back or derail the (peace) process. I will hope not and I (do not) see it derailing or setting back the process," Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said during a news conference at the Foreign Office this afternoon.

"I hope both the countries will show their commitment to correct (the situation) as we are showing our commitment to correct," she said in response to a flurry of questions about two clashes along the LoC that left one Pakistani and two Indian soldiers dead.

Khar reiterated Pakistan's offer to have the clashes investigated by the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. India has outrightly rejected this offer.

"We have asked for (a probe by) UNMOGIP and conveyed to the Indian side that this is an option which is on the table because we clearly have nothing to hide. We would want a third party to investigate the matter and set the record straight," she said.

The situation had deteriorated because of "some unnecessary statements and unnecessary atmospherics which were created", she contended.

She said the two countries have mechanisms in place to deal with "challenges like the one we have been faced with in the last week...so that we can continue as normal neighbours".

As part of these efforts, the Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries had been in contact and a protest had been lodged by Pakistan's Foreign Office with the Indian Deputy High Commissioner, she said. Khar repeatedly said that the government and people of Pakistan were committed to normalising relations with India and ruled out an official response to every statement being made by Indian political leaders on the clashes along the LoC.

"The Pakistan government and the Pakistani people have demonstrated a deep, abiding commitment to normalise and improve relations with India and to really start a journey of trust-building," she said.

The Pakistan People's Party-led government, she said, had been "walking the talk on giving India very pragmatic and specific messages, for instance through trade normalisation and visa liberalisation".

The Pakistan government is "leading towards a track which is of trust-building and normalising this region which has been very unstable because of irresponsible actions and statements", Khar said.

The government would not do anything that would promote or contribute to instability, she added.

Khar said Pakistan had been "a bit appalled and unpleasantly surprised to see such strong statements emanating four days after (a Pakistani soldier) lost his life" in a clash along the LoC on Sunday.

She said it was also "unfortunate" that there were "contradictory statements" from Indian Army officials on whether an Indian soldier had been decapitated.

However, she acknowledged that there was now "a sense of trying to de-escalate on their (Indian) side from those statements and I think that is the right way to go".

Asked about Pakistan's failure to meet a December 31 deadline for giving Most Favoured Nation-status to India, Khar said the government was committed to normalising all aspects of bilateral relations, including trade and commerce.

"Let me convey once again our commitment to normalise relations with India...And we are talking about normalising (ties) in all aspects. So I like to look at it as trade normalisation because we are not granting India any special favours. We are granting India the same treatment that we grant to 180 countries," she said.

"There is a commitment of this government to go ahead with that. There are processes which need to be pursued and a delay of a few weeks here or there (in giving MFN-status) should not be too much of a worry," she added.

Khar said Pakistan was keen to ensure that there were no "invisible barriers" to trade.

"It's easy to normalise trade by giving each other MFN-status but Pakistan is committed to ensure that there are no visible or invisible barriers to trade. Tariff and non-tariff barriers should cease to exist," she said.

The Pakistan government has reportedly held up the grant of MFN-status after several ministries and trade lobbies contended that rapid trade liberalisation would allow Indian goods and products to swamp the Pakistani market.

PTI