Srinagar: Pakistan has listed five demands, including return of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, release of political prisoners, removal of communication and movement blockade, reducing footprints of soldiers and acknowledgment of Kashmir as an internationally recognised territorial dispute before holding formal bilateral talks with New Delhi, a media report said on Saturday.
Quoting highly-placed Pakistani sources familiar with the development, Al-Jazeera reported that Islamabad was willing to hold formal bilateral talks with New Delhi to resolve all issues, including Kashmir if the latter takes certain steps to “ease lives” in Kashmir.
“Pakistan is genuinely standing by the Kashmir cause, of course the territory is an internationally recognised dispute, but the first thing we have to do is make sure Kashmiri lives are eased,” Al-Jazeera quoted one source as saying.
The report quoted the sources citing “examples” of concrete Indian actions that could move the “communication” between the two countries forward.
First, a permanent halt to demographic change in Kashmir, where New Delhi in April 2020 introduced a new domicile law that would allow long-term migrants from other parts of the country to gain permanent residence.
“This would inevitably be necessary to move forward,” a Pakistani source said.
Second, Indian authorities would have to release political and other prisoners being illegally held since it imposed a curfew in the Muslim-majority region.
Third, the removal by India of blockades on communication and movement in the Kashmir region.
Fourth, giving back full statehood rights to Jammu and Kashmir, which were also revoked as part of the August 2019 actions, and “recognising that it is subject to an internationally recognised territorial dispute with Pakistan”.
Fifth, a reduction in forces deployment in Kashmir, where hundreds of thousands of security forces personnel have been deployed following the August 2019 imposition of lockdown after India’s Article 370 was revoked.
“The markers I have mentioned, these are what we define as ‘the enabling environment’,” said a source to Al-Jazeera
“This is the next step. Whatever conditions that India creates, must also be acceptable to the Kashmiris. Without this, it is unlikely that Pakistan can move forward.”
The second Pakistani source quoted in the report says these “markers” were starting points for any further conversation.
“Let’s say that they do not do any of these things. Then that’s the end of it,” the second source said.
Arindam Bagchi, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson, declined to comment on the issue.
Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson, did not comment on specifics of the current communication between the two countries, but repeated Islamabad’s stance that “the onus is on India” to restart talks.
“For any meaningful and result oriented dialogue, there has to be a conducive and enabling environment,” he told the Qatar based news network.
Notably absent from Pakistan’s demands is the reimplementation of Article 370, which was revoked on August 5, 2019, by the Modi government.
The latest reports on India, Pakistan relations comes barely a week after the United Arab Emirates claimed playing a role in bringing down the tension between the two counties and getting their bilateral ties back to a “healthy functional relationship”
“They might not sort of become best friends but at least we want to get it to a level where it’s functional, where it’s operational, where they are speaking to each other,” Emirati ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba had said during a virtual discussion with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution last week.
India and Pakistan in a surprise announcement said on February 25 that they have agreed to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and other sectors.
Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a militant attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by militants.
Subsequent attacks, including one on Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.
The relationship dipped further after India’s war planes carried out an airstrike at Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.
The relations deteriorated after India announced withdrawing special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.
Last month, Pakistan’s powerful Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that it was time for India and Pakistan to “bury the past and move forward as he asserted that the peace between the two neighbours would help to unlock the potential of South and Central Asia.
The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.
Gen Bajwa’s remarks came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan made a similar statement.