Pakistan offers peace talks to India and Afghanistan

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that he wanted to avoid "another major crisis in the region.

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan’s new foreign minister on Monday offered an olive branch to neighboring India and Afghanistan, saying that “talking peace are the only option” to resolve the lingering disputes.
“Us coming to the table and talking peace is our only option. We need to stop the adventurism and come together. We know the issues are tough and will not be solved overnight, but we have to engage,” Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at his first news conference after assuming the office.
Qureshi, who had also served as the foreign minister in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government from 2008 to 2012, observed that the resolution of simmering Kashmir dispute lies in talks.
“Us coming to the table and talking peace is our only option. We need to stop the adventurism and come together. We know the issues are tough and will not be solved overnight, but we have to engage,” Qureshi was quoted as saying by local broadcaster Dawn News.
“Kashmir is a reality; it is an issue that both our nations acknowledge. We need a continued and uninterrupted dialogue. This is our only way forward,” he maintained.
Qureshi claimed that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had indicated the beginning of the long-stalled talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, in a facilitation letter to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.
Tensions between the two archrivals have failed to ease after 19 Indian soldiers were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016 by suspected militants that India claimed had links with Pakistan.
Islamabad denies the charge and itself accuses New Delhi of trying to divert the world’s attention from atrocities in the valley.
Over 200 people from both sides — troops and civilians — have been killed in a series of border clashes between the two forces ever since.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.
Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.
More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.
Qureshi said Islamabad wanted to work together with Kabul for enduring peace in the region.
“I want to bring a solid message to the people of Afghanistan. The two countries share a future and geography, and we have to work together and begin our long journey,” the foreign minister said.
He said he would soon visit Kabul to meet his Afghan counterpart.
“I want to tell the people of Afghanistan we need to become each other’s support base. And we have the capability to become a good support mechanism for each other,” he went on to say.
Some recent developments, including death of Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah in a US drone strike earlier this year in Afghanistan, have slightly improved the otherwise strained ties between the two neighbors.
However, the latest allegation leveled by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that hospitals in Pakistan are receiving and treating the Taliban fighters, who were injured in fighting with Afghan forces in southeastern Ghazni city, have visibly derailed the process.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has rejected the allegation, calling it “malicious propaganda to vitiate the existing cooperation between the two countries.”

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