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Pakistan does flip-flop on PM Sharif’s ‘offer’ for peace talks with India

Challenges rising for for Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has for the first time offered to hold talks with India to resolve differences between the two countries with the help of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Pakistan PM made the remarks last week in an interview with Al Arabiya, a UAE based TV news channel.

Sharif said on the TV news that after three wars with India and now wants to “live in peace with India, provided we are able to resolve our genuine problems.” Pakistan also wants to better use its scarce resources to tackle poverty and unemployment instead of buying military hardware, he explained.

Sharif said that he asked UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to “bring the two countries together.”

“My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) is that let’s sit down at the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning issues like Kashmir, where flagrant violations of human rights are taking place day in and day out,” Sharif claimed.

He noted that both countries are “nuclear powers, armed to the teeth” and said: “God forbid a war takes place, who will live to tell what happened? This is not an option.”

However, merely hours after the interview was aired, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Sharif has repeatedly said talks “can only take place after India had reversed its illegal action of August 5, 2019”, referring to the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and declaring it as a Union Territory.

The spokesman for Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s Office said “negotiations are not possible” without India revoking its 2019 actions on Kashmir. “The settlement of the Kashmir dispute must be in accordance with the UN resolutions and the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir,” the spokesman said.

Bilateral relations between the two Asian neighbours have hit rock bottom as Pakistan-based extremist groups continue to carry out cross-border terror attacks on Indian soil.

India has maintained that there cannot be any talks with Pakistan under the shadow of “terrorist violence.”

PM Modi had made several moves for talks when Sharif’s elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, was Pakistan’s prime minister during 2013-17. Modi invited Nawaz Sharif to Delhi for his swearing-in ceremony in 2014 and made a surprise visit to Lahore in December 2015 to meet Sharif. However, relations between the two countries soured after a number of Pakistan army-backed terror attacks were carried out again.