Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar accused India of engaging in "war-mongering" in the aftermath of clashes and killing of two Indian soldiers at the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Khar also said Pakistan is "deeply disappointed" to hear statements from India that are "upping the ante" and claimed her government is creating a "precedence" of not following war-mongering.
India, Pakistan and the South Asian region cannot afford a conflict between the two countries and the doors of dialogue have to remain open, she said, adding her government wants the dialogue process to be "uninterrupted and uninterruptible."
The Foreign Minister's comments came close on the heels of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's stern warning to Pakistan that it cannot be "business as usual" between the neighbours after tension flared up at the LoC following the killing of two soldiers--one of whom was beheaded-- by Pakistani troops.
"What do we see today. We see three incidents across the LoC. We see war-mongering which puts the last 60 years actively back into our memory. War-mongering coming in from the other side of the border which is, I thought, the thing of yesteryears, thing that we had put behind us," Khar said at an event at the Asia Society here yesterday.
"It is deeply disturbing to hear statements (from India) which are upping the ante where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement," Khar, who is in the city on the occasion of Pakistan's Presidency this month at the UN Security Council, said.
Khar said a "typical" Pakistani government would have responded with "tit-for-tat" statements but her government has made "pacifying statements" that called for respecting the dialogue process in response to the "hostile statement" India has made in the last few days over the clashes and killings of soldiers at the LoC.
She said there is no question of Pakistan authorising the beheading and killing of any Indian soldier as it would not be conducive for the peace process.
"We have two people dead on the Pakistan side and two people allegedly dead on the Indian side...Pakistan government is creating a precedence of not following war-mongering. We would be happy to create a precedence of moving towards a dialogue process. The doors to dialogue are open. We need to meet at any level, we need to call each other. We need to become mature countries which know how to handle their issues.
"For something like this to be blown out of proportion... there is absolutely no question of ever anyone authorising any beheading or killing of Indian soldiers. It would be absolutely opposite to the peace process," Khar said.
With repeated cease-fire violations by Pakistani troops along the LoC, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said there "cannot be business as usual with Pakistan," which must bring those responsible for the killings and mutilation of two Indian soldiers to book.
Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh has also said that he has instructed battalion commanders on the LoC to retaliate "aggressively and offensively" if the Pakistani Army provokes them by violating the ceasefire or pushing militants into J&K.
Referring to remarks coming from India, Khar said "two very important persons" within the Indian government have given statements "which we will ignore."
She said her government has created space within the public arena in Pakistan to have a "positive narrative" towards India.
"What you see in India is currently not living up to that and I hope that we will both show a deep abiding commitment to normalised peace process, to normalisation of relations and towards peace process... I have no doubt in my mind that that is the only way to go forward (for the two countries)."
Khar denied allegations made by India that its soldiers Lance-Naik Hemraj and Lance-Naik Sudhakar Singh were killed and their bodies mutilated by Pakistani troops in cross-border firing on January 8. She said Pakistan conducted an "intensive" investigation and found no evidence that any killing or beheading had taken place. She also cited an interview the spokesperson of India's Northern Army Command had given in which he had said Hemraj had not been beheaded.
Pointing fingers at India, Khar said while Pakistan used the mechanisms put in place to deal with the border disputes, India gave statements that a "proportionate response" should be given to Pakistan.
"What do we see happening in India. We see statements that say a proportionate response will be given, see statements that India has capacity and capability. We see war-mongering," Khar said, adding India did give a proportionate response on January 8 when a Pakistan hawaldar "is almost target-shot across the LoC."
"As I read statements coming in from the highest levels of government (in India), I can only say that we are deeply disappointed, I can say on behalf of my government that we feel that the dialogue process should be uninterrupted and uninterruptible."
Khar said her government has "invested deeply" in the last four years to building a peaceful relationship with India, measures which no previous military or political government in Pakistan had the "guts" to take.
"I represent a government which has taken political risks to reach out to the Indians and give them a clear message that we mean business when we say we want a different type of relationship. We go out of our way to reach trade normalisation with India which was not done in 40 years. We go ahead to do it, we are deeply committed to building ties, we have a deep abiding commitment to have a peaceful co-existence with India and Pakistan," she added.
"My government remains committed to the dialogue process, to building on the progress and not going back," she said.
Khar said building a relationship of trust would then help the two nations solve other territorial disputes, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
She said the two countries have learnt their lessons from history that 60 years of hostile narratives, wars and war mongering have not been beneficial to either nation.
"Anyone who knows the 60-year history of conflict, narrative of hostility between India and Pakistan knows that this is not the way to go. Were we able to manage our problems and solve our disputes through three wars and through all the investment that we have done in the hostile narrative against each other. And we think it is time to invest in it again. I do not think so, my government does not think so. My people do not think so and I am happy that they do not think so."
"I am happy that we are a country and a government which is not upping the ante, not responding in kind either by words or by actions," she said.
Khar said India and Pakistan cannot afford a conflict and her country would remain committed to a dialogue process with New Delhi aimed at complete normalistion of relations "to be able to not only peacefully co-exist but to contribute to the development of the region."
She said her government has shown a "deep abiding commitment" to pursuing the peace process with India in an "unprecedented" way.
"We feel that the dialogue process today also offers an opportunity to be able to deal with many other crises. That we must not close the door on dialogue. I offer here to get back to being able to resolve these at any political level that is required and that is what mature countries must do," she said.
Khar reiterated Pakistan's "deepest commitment" to normalising relations with all its neighbours, particularly with India.
"Because if I harm my neighbour - terrorism or anything else knows no boundaries, animosity knows no geographical boundaries, if I harm my neighbours, I am eventually harming myself," she said.