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India not committed to better relations with Pakistan, Ambassador Riaz Khokhar

ISLAMABAD: Ambassador Riaz Khokhar on Tuesday said that “You are not dealing with a country that is committed to better relations with Pakistan. India wants domination of Pakistan the way it has dominated all its other neighbours.”

The former foreign secretary of Pakistan was speaking at a webinar titled ‘India and South Asia in Contemporary Times’ organized by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS).

According to the IRS press release, Amb Khokhar maintained that there was a fundamental consensus in India on not giving any concessions to Pakistan on any major issues, especially Kashmir. He added that this consensus among Indian decision-making circles was not a new construct and had been there since Nehru’s time. He urged the decision-makers in Pakistan to assess whether Pakistan was in a strong position to negotiate with India on its terms. He was of the view that India would not concede to Pakistan on anything, even the low-hanging fruit if it would consider itself in a position of strength.

Amb Khokhar stated that India was not ready to go back on its actions of the 5th of August 2019 in Kashmir. Therefore, he urged the decision-makers of Pakistan to be clear on the deliverable of any talks with India. He thought that if the talks would deliver the status quo on Kashmir, it would not solve anything for Pakistan. He further urged Pakistan to be clear on what India had to offer and what the people of Pakistan and the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) would get out of any dialogue with India. He added that there seemed to be a lack of consensus or clarity on India in Pakistan.

Amb Khokhar argued that there were four parties to the Kashmir dispute: India, Pakistan, Kashmiris, and the international community. He cautioned the Government of Pakistan against arrogating to itself the right to compromise on its longstanding internationally recognized principled position on Kashmir as well as its commitment to the Kashmiris. He further cautioned the Government of Pakistan against trading a compromise on the rights to Kashmiris for good neighbourly relations with India. “The future of Kashmir should be determined by the Kashmiris,” he said.

Commenting on the hegemonistic regional approach of India, Amb Khokhar shared that India had a troubled history not only with Pakistan but all its neighbouring countries. He further stated that India was never a truly secular country, even under the long Congress rule, but Prime Minister Modi had ushered in an era of unapologetic Hindutva ultra-nationalism. He added that the BJP was deeply committed to Hindutva and aspired to mainstream the RSS ideology through a re-engineering of the Hindu society, which needed to be clearly understood in Pakistan.

Amb Khokhar said that the Government of India had abolished the only Muslim majority state in India, i.e., IIOJK, and did not care about Muslims because they were thinly spread out geographically. He further added that the Muslim community lacked leadership and there was no other political force at the national level that could confront Modi’s BJP. He was of the view that the Hindu majority of India was rallying behind the BJP’s majoritarian Hindutva nationalism because it was propagated and accepted as riddance from thousands of years of humiliation at the hands of ‘foreigners’.

Moving forward, Amb Khokhar urged the Pakistani decision-makers to proceed with caution in negotiations with India and keep consulting the people of Kashmir. He further maintained that India needed to reciprocate with positive gestures before any forward movement on the dialogue. He suggested easing of restrictions in Kashmir, the release of all Kashmiri political detainees, and allowing Kashmiri leadership to travel abroad as the initial goodwill gestures from India for seriousness in negotiation with Pakistan.

President IRS Amb Nadeem Riyaz thanked Amb Riaz M Khan for his very educative and enlightening presentation.

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