Kashmir shouldn’t be a precondition for Pak-India talks: UK


ISLAMABAD – British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond yesterday emphasised the need for enhanced cooperation between Pakistan and India for not allowing the non-state actors and other pressure groups to derail the peace process.
“I urge both Pakistan and India not to allow non-state actors and other pressure groups to derail the peace process,” British Foreign Secretary said in a joint press conference with Sartaj Aziz, adding resolution of Kashmir issue should not be a precondition for starting the dialogue process.
Hammond urged Islamabad to speed up investigation into January 2 terrorist attack on India’s Pathankot airbase in northern Punjab state about which India claims it was committed by Pakistan-based militant groups.
“I welcome Pakistan’s commitment to vigorously pursue Phatankot attack investigations and we hope that the country will make progress in the investigation,” he added.
Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz assured the British dignitary that investigation into the Phatankot attack was in progress.
“The joint investigation team (JIT) will visit India in the next few days and will hopefully follow a meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries,” Aziz said , adding the Indian High Commissioner himself stated that foreign secretaries’ meeting was not linked to the Phatankot investigation.
Indian had accused Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) of masterminding the attack and avoided direct blame on Pakistan or its institutions. However, India’s defence minister recently blamed Pakistan that the deadly assault could not have been carried out without ‘state support’.
Answering a question, Aziz confirmed that Islamabad shared intelligence with New Delhi about potential terror threat to India.
“Intelligence sharing is a routine practice and this happens around the world. However, this time it was somehow leaked to media. But this showed Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism,” Aziz said.
British Foreign Secretary lauded Islamabad’s role in the fight against terrorism and said Britain will continue its support to Pakistan in war on terror.
“I salute Pakistan’s efforts in the fight against terrorism. Pakistan is the victim of terrorism and we want to work with Pakistan to take on the threats it faces. Britain and Pakistan will remain partner against terrorism,” Hammond added.
Answering another question about the fate of Afghan reconciliation process, Sartaj Aziz played down Taliban’s rejection of proposed peace talks with the Afghan government saying Islamabad was hopeful that the Afghan peace process would start in coming days. “Under the concept of shared responsibility Pakistan, China and the US have to persuade the Taliban to the negotiations,” he said.
“I hope in the coming days some progress (can be made) … at some level, and once we start, we hope it will gather momentum.”
Taliban, which call themselves the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, said last week they would not participate.
The group said it would only join talks once all remaining foreign troops leave Afghanistan, its leaders are removed from a UN terrorist blacklist and its prisoners freed from Afghan jails.
In his remarks at the outset, Aziz said that Pakistan and the United Kingdom had agreed to prepare a three-year roadmap 2016-18 to bolster cooperation in different fields.
The understanding came at a meeting between Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during talks in Islamabad yesterday.
The adviser on foreign affairs said the next round of strategic dialogue between the two countries will be held in next few weeks.
Aziz said both Pakistan and Britain shared convergence of views on regional and international issues and committed to further enhance their multifaceted relations.
Later, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs also called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad yesterday and discussed bilateral relations and regional situation.
They also discussed ways and means to further bolster relations in different areas including energy, trade and economy.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond called on Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at GHQ in Rawalpindi and exchanged views on matters of mutual interest including security situation in the region.
According to ISPR, Philip Hammond acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan Army’s sincere efforts and sacrifices in war against terrorism and stability in the region.

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