Islamabad: Emphasising on having a “peaceful neighbourhood”, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today said his country is committed to engaging with India for the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, through a sustained dialogue.

“We remain committed to reaching out to India and seeking peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including Kashmir, through a sustained dialogue. We believe the main dynamic in South Asia should be cooperation, not confrontation,” Sharif said addressing the concluding session of Pakistan’s Envoys Conference, focussed on the Middle East.

“The hopes and aspirations of one-fifth of humanity for a more hopeful future can be realised, only if we focus on accelerating our development, and harnessing our full potential,” Sharif said.

His comments came just days after the powerful army chief Gen Raheel Sharif raised the Kashmir issue, calling it Pakistan’s “jugular vein”.

Sharif has been making the right noises for better relations with India even before he assumed power following the historic general election last year.

But continued tensions at the LoC, for most of last year that claimed lives of several Indian soldiers, had put a spanner in peace efforts.

Another area of uneasiness was the non-fructification of a liberalised trade regime between the two countries. After much enthusiasm initially, Pakistan now says it will sign the trade deal with the new government in India hoping that it will act as an ice-breaker.

India has suspended its official dialogue process with Pakistan though back-door diplomacy is on and Sharif has also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Addressing diplomats, Sharif said the defining principle of “our foreign policy remains peace for development”.

“On the external front, our central emphasis has been on building a peaceful neighbourhood. Accordingly, I have pursued a policy of constructive engagement, with all our neighbours,” he said.

On Afghanistan, Sharif said the key tenets of his government are “non-interference, support for the peace and reconciliation process, and building a bilateral relationship, marked by enhanced trade and economic cooperation”.

He also said that Pakistan wants peace and tranquillity in the Middle East.

“We will maintain our policy of non-interference, in the internal affairs of states,” he said, amid speculation that Pakistan shifted its policy on Syria under Saudi influence.

“We have an equal aspiration to forge closer bilateral ties with all countries in the region. Our efforts to develop bilateral ties with one country are not, and will not be, at the expense of another. Pakistan remains ready to take two steps to greet a hand extended in friendship,” he said.

“Our approach to the transition in the Arab world, would continue to be guided by the principles, enshrined in the United Nations Charter,” he added.

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Free Press Journal