Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations (UN) Dr Maleeha Lodhi has said the ongoing tensions with India mean Pakistan’s full focus has to be on its eastern frontier and that has implications for the nascent Afghan peace process.
Although the ambassador stopped short of saying this would affect Pakistan’s role in the process, her message was clear that the shift in focus could have an unintended result.
“Our attention is going to be where we feel there is a military threat to us,” Ambassador Lodhi said in an interview with Fox News.
Responding to a question about the possible impact of the simmering India-Pakistan tensions stemming from the Kashmir dispute, the Pakistani envoy said, “The ongoing threat is from India.”
The Afghan peace talks are currently taking place in Doha between Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy leader, who for the first time is taking a more direct role in the process.
“Both [Afghanistan] and [Kashmir] issues are important in their own right. But it is the eastern border, from where India attacked Pakistan,” ambassador Lodhi said. “They sent planes into our territory. That’s a hot border.”
She continued, “Afghanistan is a different situation. We would like that war to end. But we don’t perceive a threat from our western border. It’s our eastern border from where we continue to perceive a threat.”
“We are in the midst of a very tense situation, a very fraught situation,” the Pakistani envoy added. “The Indian leadership is failing to respond to the Prime Minister [Imran Khan’s] repeated gestures [of peace], which included the release of Indian pilot.”
Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours escalated after an attack in occupied Kashmir on February 14 killed more than 40 soldiers.
Indian blames Pakistan for the attack. Pakistan has categorically denied any involvement and had offered to investigate the incident.
“We keep asking the Indians to give us what they have and we will act on it,” the ambassador said, adding that only couple of days ago, the dossier was handed over to Pakistan.
“We are examining the dossier to see if there is anything in there which we need to act upon. We will act if there is any solid evidence, but we cannot act on the basis of allegations,” she added.
Responding to a question about Kashmir, the Pakistani envoy said the dispute has been there for the past 70 years.
“It has to be addressed, in its own right and [on] its own merits because it will remain an issue that will lead to repeated tensions between India and Pakistan and in any case it is an issue that is on the Security Council agenda and it has resolutions that remain unimplemented,” the ambassador added.