FO ‘rebuts’ minister’s remarks on India

Says Bilawal’s remarks are better understood in overall context of his key message of conflict resolution

Issuing a clarification on Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s comments from a day ago in which he had apparently advocated reengagement with India, the Foreign Office (FO) on Friday said there was no change in Pakistan’s policy towards its eastern neighbour and there was a “national consensus” on this.

Speaking at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad the other day, Bilawal had identified India and the United States as countries with which Pakistan’s relations were problematic, and put greater emphasis on reengaging with India, saying it was time for turning to economic diplomacy and focusing on engagement.

In a statement on Friday, the FO said these comments by the foreign minister were “being interpreted out of context and portrayed incorrectly”. “The foreign minister’s remarks are better understood in the overall context of his key message of conflict resolution that he emphasised in his address at the think tank event,” the FO added. It said Pakistan had “always desired” cooperative relations with all its neighbours, including India, and had “consistently advocated” for constructive engagement and result-oriented dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the Kashmir dispute.

It said the onus remains on India to take necessary steps to create an enabling environment conducive to meaningful and result-oriented dialogue.

However, Bilawal’s comments attracted strong criticism from former FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “Giving statements on the need to build bonds with India, all while the fascist Indian state persecutes our brothers and sisters in [occupied] Kashmir is irresponsible.”

“I urge our imported FM to please stop treating the Foreign Office like his first professional internship,” Qureshi said.