ISLAMABAD: A day after Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties and suspended bilateral trade with India, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Thursday dismissed suggestions that Islamabad was looking for a military option in the wake of India’s illegal annexation of occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Qureshi; however, told reporters that Pakistan fully reserved the right to respond if India resorted to any “misadventure”.
His statement came against the backdrop of heightened tensions triggered by sudden Indian decision to revoke the special status of the disputed territory by abrogating Article 370 of the constitution.
Pakistan strongly rejected the Indian decision, calling it illegal and in violation of UN Security Council resolutions that recognised Kashmir as a disputed territory.
The government took a series of steps to convey a strong message to New Delhi that the illegal annexation of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) would not go unnoticed.
The steps include downgrading of diplomatic ties as well as suspending bilateral trade. Within an hour of the decision taken by the National Security Committee (NSC), Pakistan asked India to withdraw its ambassador. Similarly, Islamabad decided not to send its envoy to New Delhi.
This and other decisions ignited fears that current tensions could escalate into a serious conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
When asked whether Pakistan was considering any military option, the foreign minister ruled out such a possibility, saying Pakistan would prefer “diplomacy and legal” options to deal with the situation arising out of the Indian decision on occupied Kashmir.
However, Qureshi while speaking to European Union (EU) Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini over the phone expressed the apprehension that India could stage a “false flag” operation, apportion blame on Pakistan and then embark on a misadventure in the Pakistani territory.
“The foreign minister emphasised that any escalation on the eastern border could jeopardise the efforts of the international community to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan,” according to the official handout.
The EU foreign policy chief stated that they were closely following the situation with deep concern. She agreed that any escalation in tensions in the region could negatively impact the Afghan peace process and affect the regional security and stability.
The EU high representative underscored that all disputes should be resolved through dialogue and peaceful means.
The foreign minister briefed the EU representative on the events of far-reaching consequences unfolding in the region in the wake of the unilateral steps taken by the Indian government in order to consolidate illegal occupation of IOK.
He highlighted that India had deployed 180,000 additional troops, suspended mobile and internet services and imposed a curfew, locking down the entire population of IOK. He added that unilateral steps taken by India were against the very essence of various resolutions of the UNSC on Jammu and Kashmir.
Foreign Minister Qureshi conveyed that steps taken by India had the real potential to further deteriorate human rights situation in IOK, as well as seriously impact peace and security in South Asia.
He had addressed two letters to the UN secretary general highlighting the gravity of the situation. He urged the high representative to appropriately brief the EU member states on the situation.
He also informed Mogherini about the decisions taken during the joint session of parliament, including downgrading of diplomatic relations, suspension of bilateral trade, review of bilateral agreements and taking the matter to the UNSC.
The two leaders agreed to stay in touch and continue to work together for peace and stability in the region.
Meanwhile, Qureshi also briefed heads of missions, ambassadors and members of diplomatic corps rejecting the Indian decision to try to change the disputed status of IOK.
According to a tweet by Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal, the foreign minister urged them to stop India from committing blatant violations of human rights in Kashmir.
He said India had turned occupied Kashmir into the largest prison in the world by deploying over 900,000 troops to subjugate 14 million Kashmiris.
Earlier, speaking at a weekly news briefing, the FO spokesperson rejected assertion by India that the decision on revoking IOK’s special status was India’s “internal matter”.
He said Kashmir was an internationally-recognised dispute and that there were UNSC resolutions on it.
To a question, he made it clear that Pakistan was not advocating for war with India.