Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser on national security issues has contended that India has indicated a desire for talks even as he set several conditions for a dialogue, including the rollback of several changes made in Jammu and Kashmir.
Moeed Yusuf, special assistant to Khan on national security and strategic policy planning, said India has sent a message to Pakistan with “a desire for conversation” but refused to give details.
Among the conditions set by Yusuf for a dialogue with India is release of political prisoners in Jammu and Kashmir, making Kashmiris a party to talks, ending restrictions in the region, rescinding the domicile law that allows non-Kashmiris to settle in the region, and stopping alleged human rights abuses.
He also said the changes in Jammu and Kashmir are “not an internal matter”, and are “a matter for the UN”.
Yusuf made the remarks in an interview with journalist Karan Thapar for the news portal The Wire, the first by a Pakistani official since India scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August 2019 and split it into two union territories.
Yusuf said the two sides “must sit down like adults” for talks and contended the two key issues are Kashmir and terror. “I want to talk about both,” he said, adding that Pakistan “stands for peace and we want to move forward”.
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Yusuf’s comments.
It is extremely rare for Pakistani officials to talk on foreign policy issues such as relations with India without getting the go-ahead from the military establishment, which plays a key role in guiding ties with the US and India. Yusuf is considered to be close to the security establishment.
Last month, Yusuf had created a flutter after he joined a virtual meeting of national security advisers of member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) with a map that inaccurately depicted the borders of India and Pakistan. India’s NSA Ajit Doval walked out of the meeting in protest and the matter did now go down well with Russia, which hosted the meeting.
On the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former Indian Navy officer sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court for alleged involvement in spying, Yusuf contended there was evidence linking him to subversive activities. On the matter of India asking that Jadhav be represented by an Indian lawyer or a Queen’s Counsel to file an appeal against his death sentence, Yusuf said there is no law to allow an Indian lawyer to argue a case in a Pakistani court.
He also refused to accept that Pakistan has denied India unimpeded and unconditional consular access to Jadhav.
Asked about Pakistan’s repeated refusal to act against terrorists who target India from Pakistani soil and the failure to prosecute the seven men accused of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Yusuf blamed India for “deliberately delaying sending evidence and witnesses” for the trail so that it can keep the issue alive and use it to run down Pakistan in front of the world community.
Speaking about Prime Minister Khan’s silence on the persecution of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region while accusing India of “genocide” in Kashmir, Yusuf said this was “a false equivalence”. He said the Uyghurs were a “non-issue” as he was 100% satisfied that they were being treated properly by China.
Yusuf also accused India of being involved in backing terror within Pakistan, and said the Indian embassy in Kabul had given $1 million to the Pakistani Taliban in 2019 to help the group merge with four other militant groups. However, he was unable to name all four groups.