January 27, 2023
ISLAMABAD – Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar said on Thursday that ever since the incumbent government came to power, there has been no backchannel diplomacy going on between Pakistan and India “untold to the rest of the world”.
“At this moment, there is no such thing under way,” she said during a Senate session.
Rabbani’s statement comes a day after Indian media reported that New Delhi invited Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial to attend the foreign ministers’ and chief justices’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which is scheduled to take place in Goa in May.
According to reports, Pakistan is yet to respond to the invite sent by India through its High Commission in Islamabad.
Last week, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to hold serious and sincere talks to resolve burning issues, including Kashmir, and said the United Arab Emirates leadership could play an important role in bringing India and Pakistan to the table.
However, a day later the Prime Minister’s Office clarified that talks with India can only take place after the country reverses its “illegal action of August 5, 2019”, which was aimed at illegally altering the demography of the Muslim-majority state of India-occupied Kashmir.
During a session of the upper house of the Parliament today, Khar said that backchannel diplomacy was only desirable when it was result-oriented.
She stated that Pakistan had always taken initiatives to promote peace. “However, right now, the cross-border hostility [from India] is of a unique type.”
The BBC documentary on Modi has shown the world why we have stood on this position, the minister said, adding that Pakistan had learnt from history but some countries in the region have not.
She went on to say that oftentimes, on international forums, Pakistan was asked to normalise its ties with India. “To them, our response is that they should look at the messages we have received from India.
“The messages that we are getting are all conflagratory […] Pakistan has the largest interest in unleashing [the potential of] this region but when you have a government on the other side whose prime minister says that their nuclear assets are not for Diwali […] then what can we do,” Khar added.
Pakistan ‘reviewing’ India’s SCO invite
Separately, in a weekly press briefing earlier today, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch reiterated Khar’s statement. “There is no backchannel diplomacy between India and Pakistan.”
In response to a question on India’s SCO invitation to Bilawal, she confirmed that Pakistan had received the invite. “Both India and Pakistan are members of the SCO. India is hosting the conference this year and as the chairman, it has sent an invitation to us.
“The invitation is being reviewed. A decision regarding participation in the meeting will be taken after deliberation,” Baloch told the media.
Commenting on the BBC documentary on Modi — which includes revelations about a secret British probe held into the Gujarat riots and the Indian prime minister’s role in it — the FO spokespersons said that there was “nothing new in it”.