Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari makes strong pitch for renewed engagement with India – Times of India


ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday made a strong pitch for renewed ties with India, saying severing ties with New Delhi would not serve the country’s interests as Islamabad was already “internationally isolated and disconnected”.
Addressing the Founding Day Ceremony in the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, bilawal said: “We have our problems with India. Pakistan and India have a long history of war and conflict. Today, where we have serious disputes, the events of August 2019 cannot be taken lightly.”
Ties between India and Pakistan have been snowed under after New Delhi repealed Article 370 of the constitution on August 5, 2019 to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
India’s decision provoked strong reactions in Pakistan, which weakened diplomatic relations and expelled the Indian envoy.
On the Kashmir issue, Bilawal said it is a “cornerstone of every conversation I’ve had since becoming foreign minister”.
Bilawal, 33, became Pakistan’s top diplomat in April.
“In May we had the demarcation committee and recently the Islamophobic comments from officials have created an environment where engagement for Pakistan is very difficult, if not impossible,” the minister said, referring to re-establishing contacts with India.
Bilawal asked those in attendance at the think tank event whether severing ties with India would serve Pakistan’s interests, whether it be Kashmir, whether it be due to rising Islamophobia or the emphasis on Hindutva story in India.
“That as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, as the representative of my country, I do not only speak not to the Government of India, but also not to the Indian people. Is that the best way to communicate or achieve Pakistan’s goal ?” the minister explained.
India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “were, is and forever will be” remain an integral part of the country.
India has said it wants normal neighborly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.
The minister added that the country was at a crossroads and that the current government has inherited a country “wherever you look, there is a crisis”.
He blamed the previous government’s flawed policies, led by Imran Khan, which left Pakistan “internationally isolated and internationally disconnected.”
On the issue of bilateral trade with India, Bilawal said: “We have no trading relationship with the East (India) and many will argue that we absolutely shouldn’t. The environment is not as such, given these outrageous attacks on our principles would it would be inappropriate for Pakistan to take such a step.”
Bilawal referred to the first term of office of his mother and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1988, arguing that this was the time when Pakistan could have forged the kind of economic commitment with India that could have compelled both sides not to take extreme measures.

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