Pakistan looking to resume talks with India after state elections

Development minister says Pakistan is an election issue in India’s state election

APP February 05, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is expecting the environment for peace dialogue to be conducive sometime in March at the conclusion of state assembly elections in India, The Indian Express quoted Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal as saying in a report.

“We are hoping that by March these state elections will be over and maybe then there will be a better environment to pursue peace talks with India. But we are totally committed,” the minister told a gathering on Sunday.

Ahsan Iqbal pointed out that Pakistan was usually an election issue in India’s state assembly elections. He was responding to a question at the US Institute of Peace, a top American think-tank.

“It is a bit unfortunate that they’re taking strong positions along the electoral cycle. I think we should be mature enough to think beyond that. India and Pakistan have to live together, we cannot change our geography, and we must now, think in terms of peace,” he said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he said, is a strong advocate of peace in the region.

“We have very actively pursued peace with Afghanistan and India and continue to do so because we think that our development hinges upon peace in the region,” he said.

“In Pakistan, since 1993 I don’t remember any election where any leadership has bashed India to get some extra votes in the elections. I mean, in our elections India is not affected, nobody speaks about India, nobody does any India bashing,” he said.

“But somehow we feel that the electoral dynamics in India are still quite sensitive to Pakistan bashing. So whenever you have, an electoral process in India, the government takes a certain hawkish position towards Pakistan,” said Ahsan Iqbal, adding that after these elections there would be a better environment to pursue peace talks with India.

Responding to a question, he described India’s reaction to the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as a ‘knee jerk’ reaction.

India, he said, needed to look at opportunities with CPEC as increasing regional cooperation. “So instead of opposing CPEC, it should now join CPEC and look at different opportunities,” he said, adding CPEC would provide India the shortest land route to do trade with most of China.

“What you also have to see, that in China, they have now developed extensive road and rail links with West China,” he added.

“If you are even doing trade through CPEC you can reach out to any destination in China from this area. So we are very hopeful and we continue to work to normalise our relations with India,” Ahsan Iqbal said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2017.