No Change in India’s Approach, Says MEA on Pakistan; Condemns Terror Attack in Karachi

Over a fortnight after Shehbaz Sharif became Pakistan’s new prime minister, India on Thursday asserted there is no change to its approach that talks between the two sides can only take place in an atmosphere free of terror, and insisted that the onus is on Islamabad to create such an environment. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also said that the terror attack in Karachi only underlined the need for all countries to take an “undifferentiated” position against terrorism.

“Our stance against all forms of terrorism anywhere has been steadfast and consistent. We have been condemning (them). This particular incident only underlines the need for all countries to take an undifferentiated position against terrorism,” he said at a weekly media briefing. Bagchi was replying to a question.

Three Chinese language teachers and their local driver were killed in a suicide bombing at the University of Karachi on Tuesday. Asked whether India’s position on engaging with Pakistan is changing, Bagchi said there is no change to it.

“Our approach is very simple. There should be an atmosphere free of terrorism; then only talks can take place. There was an exchange of courtesy letters between the two prime ministers. It is our legitimate demand that there is an environment free of terror,” he said. The MEA spokesperson said without such an environment, talks cannot take place, adding “there is no change in our approach”. After Sharif took charge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote a letter to him conveying that India desired constructive ties with Pakistan.

In his reply, Sharif pitched for “meaningful” engagement between the two countries. Asked about Pakistan’s objection to Modi’s recent visit to Kashmir and laying of the foundation stone for a hydroelectric project on the Chenab river, Bagchi said Islamabad has no locus standi to talk about it.

“It is very clear at the reception that he got and the visuals you saw and the development projects that he inaugurated and the changes that have happened on the ground, it is a very clear answer to any questions that may be raised about the prime minister’s visit,” he said. “In any case, Pakistan has no locus to talk about it from this perspective on what’s happening in Jammu and Kashmir and I answered it in the context of somebody questioning the visit itself,” he said.

India has been maintaining that it desires normal neighborly relations with Pakistan while insisting that the onus is on Islamabad to create an environment free of terror and hostility for such an engagement. The ties between India and Pakistan came under severe strain after India’s warplanes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan in February 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack.

The relations further deteriorated after India in August 2019 announced withdrawing special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories.

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