Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto, who is on a two-day India visit to attend the SCO meeting in Goa, in an exclusive conversation with India Today, spoke about the success of his visit, Indo-Pak relations, terrorism and several other issues.
ON HIS VISIT
On his India visit, Bilawal Bhutto said the aim of his visit was to attend the SCO meeting, a forum Pakistan is part of, and to that end, the visit has been successful.
ON INDIA-PAK TIES
“Until India reviews actions it took on August 5, 2019, Pakistan is not in a position to engage bilaterally with India,” Bilawal Bhutto said in reference to the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
“If India’s foreign policy is ‘neighbours first’, then they have to do some sort of engagement with one of its neighbours,” Bhutto said.
ON INDIA’S POSITION ON TIES
India has maintained that talks with Pakistan will not happen until Islamabad acts on cross-border terrorism. On India’s position, Bilawal Bhutto said, “Terrorism isn’t anything new. It is an old challenge. Despite having to face this challenge, we have had on-and-off talks.”
“Pakistan wants to deal with terrorism not because India says so, but because we want to end this menace,” Bhutto said, adding that Pakistan has suffered the most because of terror.
“I am a victim of terrorism. We are ready and willing to engage and address any concern India must have, but India will have to address our concerns as well,” the foreign minister said in reference to Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is in a jail in Pakistan, and the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings.
“Our track record speaks for itself. Pakistan is the only country to complete two FATF objectives – one on terror financing and the other on money laundering. Between 2006-2014, Pakistan was in a very difficult situation. But we managed to break the back of these terrorists with action plans,” Bhutto stated.
ON ATTACKS ON INDIA
“While you claim to have a long list [of attacks on India], you refuse to accept that Pakistan has any legitimate concerns,” Bilawal Bhutto said.
“The trial in the Mumbai attacks is ongoing in Pakistan. The reason the trial has not progressed is because India has refused to produce witnesses necessary to take the case forward,” he claimed.
ON INDIA’S CONCERNS
Bilawal Bhutto, on India’s concerns about terrorism, said it is a genuine issue for Pakistan as well.
“I am not denying the legitimacy of this concern. I am just suggesting the way you are engaging to resolve this issue is not necessarily productive,” the Pakistan foreign minister said.
ON FROZEN PEACE TALKS BETWEEN INDIA AND PAKISTAN
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari blamed “frozen peace” between India and Pakistan for India’s policy in Kashmir, as he refused to acknowledge whether handing over underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, living in Karachi, would break the tension.
“The frozen peace is a result of the action of August 5, 2019 when India unilaterally violated international law, UN resolutions and bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan,” Bhutto said when asked if handing over Dawood to India would act as a gesture to break the impasse.
ON WITHDRAWING PAK ARMY FROM GILGIT-BALISTAN, PoK
“I am willing to abide by the UN Security Council resolutions [that also include withdrawing the Pakistan Army from Gilgit-Balistan]. But why is India, the largest democracy in the world, worried about a plebiscite or a referendum?” Bilawal Bhutto asked.
“Terrorism has become far more complicated since the fall of Kabul. The manner in which various terrorist organisations are able to conduct themselves today was not the case a year ago. The fallout of that at the moment is borne by Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite what may have happened in the past, we must work together,” Bhutto stressed.