By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday that Pakistan is ready to restart talks with arch-rival India if Delhi provides a roadmap towards restoring the previous status of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
The two nuclear-armed neighbours both control parts of Kashmir but claim it in full. In 2019, India withdrew Indian-ruled Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten its grip over the territory, sparking outrage in Pakistan, the downgrading of diplomatic ties and asuspension of bilateral trade.
“If there is a roadmap, then, yes, we will talk,” Khan told Reuters at his official residence in Islamabad.
Previously, Khan and his government have held that India would have to first reverse its 2019 steps for any normalisation process to begin.
“Even if they give us a roadmap, that these are the steps that we will take to basically undo what they did, which is illegal, against international law and United Nations resolutions… then that is acceptable,” Khan said.
India’s external affairs ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Video: Indian minister says the government is confident it has the Covid crisis ‘under control’ (CNBC)
Kashmir has been a flashpoint since India and Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947, and they have fought two wars over the region. Pakistan accuses India of rights violations in Kashmir, and India says Pakistan supports militants in its part of the region. Both deny the charges.
In 2019, a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir led to India sending warplanes to Pakistan.
Khan said he has always wanted a “civilised” and “open” relationship with India.
“It is common sense that if you want to reduce poverty in the subcontinent, the best way is to trade with each other,” he said, referring to the example of the European Union.
Pakistan in March deferred a decision by its top economic decision-making body to restart trade with India until Delhi reviewed its moves in Kashmir.
He said India had crossed a “red line” by revoking the autonomy of its part of Kashmir. “They have to come back for us to resume dialogue,” Khan said, adding, “at the moment there is no response from India”.
Earlier this year, Indian officials said the two governments had opened a back channel of diplomacy aimed at a modest roadmap to normalising ties over the next several months.
(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)