Islamabad is seeking an American role in facilitating talks between India and Pakistan because the two South Asian neighbours are not engaging bilaterally, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said, warning that absence of such a facilitation could lead to an escalation of tension.
But the latest Pakistani request in this regard has again been rejected by the US, the top Pakistani diplomat told a Washington audience on Wednesday, a day after he had meetings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, during which he raised the issue only to be pushed back by the Trump administration.
"When we asked the US, to play facilitating role...Why do we ask? Simply because we are not engaging bilaterally. And that bilateral disengagement is…a distraction. We want to focus, we want to move on the western side of the border, which we are not being able to because we have to watch our back from eastern side (of the border with India). That is not a healthy situation to be in," Qureshi said in response to a question at the US Institute of Peace, a US Congress-funded top American think-tank.
"Now can you (United States) facilitate? The answer from them is no. They wanted bilaterally. But there is no bilateral movement," Qureshi said warning that this could lead to escalation of tension between the two South Asian countries.
"If that lack of facilitation leads to escalation and some of the statements that have come out of late have not been very helpful," the Pakistani foreign minister said in an apparent reference to the remarks by Indian leaders.
"The so-called surgical strikes and stuff like that doesn't make sense. It does not, that's politics.. there are elections around the corner," he said in response to a question.
The new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Pakistan, he claimed, is not shy of engaging. Referring to the cancelling of his meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New York, he alleged that India backed off. However, he quickly skipped India's reasons for this – glorification of terrorists by issuing postal stamps and brutal killing of India security personnel.
"If the Indians have a better option, share it with us. If disengagement, if not talking to each other will resolve and stabilise the region, fine. If that's their analysis fine," Qureshi said.
Qureshi who left for Pakistan after his meetings with Trump administration officials said it is unfortunate that the two countries are not engaging. "It's unfortunate. That's the way it is. Now. What does this government want? We want normalisation. We want co-existence. You've got to recognise the reality. Pakistan is a reality. So is India. We have issues. How do we resolve them?" he asked.
"After coming to power, the first speech made by Prime Minister Khan was "that every step you (India) take towards peace, we will take two. And he meant it. It wasn't just because it sounded good. It wasn't to please anyone. He is too blunt a person to please people. He can be very straight and he can be very blunt. But he said that because he feels that way," Qureshi said.
India has said that Pakistan created the conditions for cancellation of the talks – due to issuing of postage stamps glorifying terrorists and brutal killing of its three security personnel. The Pakistan foreign minister did not mention that in his answer and only said that the stalled dialogue process is not good for the two countries and the region.
Responding to a question on India's stand that talks and terrorism cannot go together, a view which is shared by Washington too, Qureshi referred to a statement by Khan while he was an opposition leader and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a trip to New Delhi that there would always be spoilers.
"There will always be spoilers. There will always be elements that will scuttle the process of peace. But when they do that, let re-engage to fight them. They will push us back. But we have to see what is in our interest, what is in the regional interest. What's in Pakistan's interest," Qureshi said quoting what Khan had told Modi.
Soon, he raised the Kashmir issue. "They have to realise, and I think they were being simplistic, if they feel that everything that's wrong on the Indian side of Kashmir is all of Pakistan's making, that is an unrealistic approach," he said.
India, he said, should also revisit its policies and see why and how people have been alienated.