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17-min read

High Commissioner Abdul Basit Says No Information About India's Attack on Pak Posts

"I do not know. At this point in time there is no proposal from either side of a meeting at Astana"

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:May 24, 2017, 12:03 AM IST
High Commissioner Abdul Basit Says No Information About India's Attack on Pak Posts
"I do not know. At this point in time there is no proposal from either side of a meeting at Astana"

New Delhi: Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit on Tuesday denied the Indian Army attack on its territory in Naushera sector and said he had not received any such report from Pakistani side.

“There is nothing to brag about. It reinforces Pakistan’s contention that we need to resolve the issue peacefully,” Basit told CNN-News18 in an exclusive interview.

Here are the excerpts:

News18: At a time when there are no real signs of a thaw in the chill between the two neighbours - India and Pakistan, I have with me the Pakistan High Commissioner to India Mr. Abdul Basit. Many thanks Sir for speaking with News18. Now, even as we start speaking there is information coming in from Indian army that they have fired on Pakistani posts in Nowshera sector. How would you react to this?

Basit: Thank you very much for having me. First of all, I haven't received any thing yet from Pakistan so it is very difficult for me to comment. It establsihes two things: first, the centrality of the J&K dispute between the two countries and if at all anything happened today, it kind of shows how important it is for the two countries to sit across the table and resolve this dispute. Secondly, unfortunately despite the ceasefire, 2003 cesasefire standing, the LoC somewhat remains volatile. So, it is important to ensure that such things do not happen.

News18: But sir, there is a perception that Pakistan is keeping this LoC heated up at the moment. In fact, the allegation is that the Pakistan army and the posts that have been found today were helping the infiltration of terrorists. How do you expect your neighbour to continue with any sort of dialogue when terrorists are pushed through the LoC?

Basit: That is the Indian version. I said that I haven't received anything from Pakistan yet. As far as terrorism is concerned, Pakistan does not really need to create a volatile or destabilizing situation. We have many other things to do.

News18: That is exactly the point, sir. Is it a means to divert the attention from Pakistan? There is sectarian violence in Pakistan...

Basit: What sectarian violence?

News18: Shias are being killed for heaven's sake. How can you say that there are no problems in Pakistan?

Basit: You please show me any one country which is without violence. You have your problems, we have ours.

News18: But these are massive problems. Is this a means to divert attention from these problems?

Basit: No, but who has started this firing? Not Pakistan. If at all, what we are hearing or seeing on Indian TV channels it is unprovoked ceasefire violation from Indian side.

News18:  Sir, but there have been ceasefire violations, multiple in the past couple of months, and civilians have been killed.

Basit: So? Pakistan has always retaliated to whatever comes from the Indian side.

News18:  The Indian side says that these are unprovoked ceasefire violation from Pakistan. we are losing our civilians, sir.

Basit: The best thing would be, we have our military observers group in Pakistan, then who will decide that who starts this unprovoked firing? You will blame us, we will blame you. So, important is that there should be another party or the UN body to hear us out as to who starts this.

News18:  But, sir. A third party intervention is something that India has said that it will not accept.

Basit: Then, tell me how to resolve this issue?

News18: Does Pakistan not believe that India and Pakistan can bilaterally resolve issues?

Basit: We can. why not?

News18: Then, why are no steps being taken in the right direction?

Basit: We have been waiting since Shimla agreement was signed back in 1972, so now it has almost been 45-46 years. We are waiting for this problem to be resolved bilaterally, but so far, we do not see any genuine desire on the part of India to really settle this issue once and for all.

News18: Conversely, I can ask you, is this situation being created to get a third party to intervene?

Basit: No, that is not in our interest. We have been saying to India for years that it is Pakistan's primary objective of our foreign policy to have a normal relationship with India and we fully understand that this normal relationship cannot come without resolving our problems and the core dispute you would agree with me is the Jammu and Kashmir issue. So, Pakistan does want to have a normal relationship with India, but in order to resolve all our problems, we need to talk to each other.

News18: Sir, it appears that the constant refrain of Kashmir almost makes it sound like there is a desperate attempt by Pakistan to internationalize this issue, rather than talking about it bilaterally.

Basit: I can also infer or say that perhaps India does not want to resolve this problem.

News18: India has said that talk on terror first which is harming us and then we will talk on every other aspect that you want. Why is it so unacceptable to Pakistan.

Basit: What our position is that we want to engage comprehensively and meaningfully because we cannot cherry-pick. All issues are important. Terrorism is equally important for us. The conviction of Kulbhushan Jadhav clearly shows that terrorism in Pakistan does have external dimension to it.

News18: Sir, why are you linking terrorism to Kulbhushan Jadhav? India has said that he was an innocent Indian citizen who was illegally detained in Pakistan.

Basit: Because he was convicted for "sabotage".

News18: Where is the evidence, Sir?

Basit: It was presented before the court.

News18: Why is the evidence not being shared with India?

Basit: It is a highly-sensitive case.

News18: But why is there this opaque character of carrying out a trial in Pakistan? If he is an Indian citizen, and if on the face, you are making claims that he is a terrorist, then compare it to the situation of Kasab. He got all the rights here in India, he was given a counsel, a counsellor access. The trial was carried out in a transparent manner for the world to see. Why shouldn't Pakistan have the same standards?

Basit: Maha, separate the facts from fiction. It is an undeniable fact that he was arrested in Balochistan.

News18: India says that he was picked up from Iran.

Basit: He was carrying fake passport under the name of Hussain Umari Patel.

News18: If you don't allow a counsellor, how did you find that he had that passport.

Basit: He confessed to carrying out subversive activities in Pakistan. So, he was convicted for all those activities.

News18: Sir, confessions can be extracted under coercion. What is the sanctity of a confession when the person has not got access to a counsellor. It is against human rights, sir? India is not even aware of his condition.

Basit: Maha, consular access is not automatic. Please, go through the 2008 bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan.

News18: Sir, ICJ has already said that Vienna Convention on consular relations optional protocol takes primacy.

Basit: As far as ICJ provision order is concerned, it is only about giving temporary reprieve to staying the execution of commander Jadhav. And even that is irrelevant because frankly speaking he was not being executed yesterday or tomorrow.

News18: But, he could have been executed any time after August. That's what Ronny Abraham said was the reason for urgency.

Basit: Not at all. Because there is still a process to round out. He cannot be just hanged without us completing our legal procedure.

News18: But sir, India is not even aware whether he has been able to file his appeal the last day which was May 19. Has Pakistan communicated to India anything about that?

Basit: He was required to submit his appeal within 40 days.

News18: Has he done that?

Basit: Now, it can take few days or a month, I do not know as to whether or not he has been accepted. There is a process of mercy petition.

News18: Sir, the question is whether he has even appealed?

Basit: He would know, whether or not his appeal has been submitted.

News18: Sir, but do you understand what India is trying to say? The process is so opaque.

Basit: It is not opaque at all. Because, that is the requirement of the case itself. there are cases which cannot be made public. it is as simple as that.

News18: Sir, you are saying that the case is not opaque. the ICJ has indicated that they feel that the case is opaque. they have jurisdiction in the case.

Basit: No, no.

News18: The UN has slammed Pak military court for being so opaque. 170 people have been handed out death penalty in 2 years. I mean is that how a civilised country runs the court?

Basit: these military courts have been established under a constitutional amendment. there is a constitution provision under which these courts have been established in order to deal with issues of terrorism.

News18: So, can they flout human rights?

Basit: and commander Jadhav is not being discriminated against. there are many Pakistanis who have been tried before these courts. they have been sentenced to death.

News18: But, two wrongs do not make a right. I hope you understand that, sir?

Basit:  Absolutely. but, we have a peculiar situation, maha. we are dealing with such a huge monster. we have to deal with this decisively. hence, he was tried in a military court. So, there is nothing wrong about it or peculiar about it.

News18: After the ICJ setback which has clearly left Pak embarrassed. will there be a change in stance?

Basit: Let me tell clarify. what did you get at ICJ. just a limited temporary reprieve. there is still no ruling on the jurisdiction of the court itself.

News18: ICJ has said that they have the jurisdiction.

Basit: But, the final ruling has to come. nor is there anything on counsellor access. these two questions are still pending. so, please do not say that.

Anchor: But, sir these are comments from your own people in Pak who believe that pak has been left embarrassed. that your counsel was not well-prepared. he wrapped in 40 minutes when you had an hour and half to present your arguments. clearly Pak did not have its facts.

Basit: No. as far as commander Jadhav case is concerned i can assure you that we are on terror-firmer; on solid ground. he has been convicted for all his subversive activities. so, we are not worried about anything.

News18:  If Pak is not worried then what is the hassle in providing counsellor access to that person.

Basit: Because that is for us to decide on merit. it is not automatic as i said earlier. Go through the bilateral agreement.

News18: But, that is the whole contention. and that is why India went to ICJ. when the ICJ has said that it has jurisdiction and the 2008 bilateral treaty between the two sides doesn't take primacy here.

Basit: Maha, there is no ruling of ICJ on the issue of counsellor access nor is there any conclusive ruling on the jurisdiction itself. so, let us wait and see.

News18: If the ICJ tomorrow says that counsellor access is the basic minimum that a country should provide, will you abide by the rule?

Basit: we will see what happens. because, no country in the world including pak will ever compromise on its security requirements or security issues. so, pak is not an exceptional case in this regard. pak also has security reasons and security concerns, whether or not counsellor access is given, i would not know. it will be decided on merit. it is as simple as that.

News18: But, sir. the fact that ICJ believes it has jurisdiction and it has said that there is urgency in the matter, do you believe that as a face-saver at least Pak should allow counsellor access.

Basit: No. in security issues you do not really resort to face-saving things. these are quite sensitive matters.

News18: But, sir the apprehension in a section is that perhaps Kulbhushan Jadhav is not alive and this entire trial was a sham to cover that up.

Basit: not at all. he is alive and i can assure you that he is alive and the legal process is underway. and let's see how things go from here.

News18: when you say the legal process is underway, do we assume that he has appealed before the 19th of may.

Basit: I presume so.

News18: all right and has his mother's appeal been accepted which she has filed and our high commissioner in pak has submitted it to the foreign secretary there?

Basit: yes, that is in public knowledge. nothing for me to comment on that.

News18: has that appeal been accepted?

Basit: It is in public knowledge that your high commissioner in Islamabad has submitted an appeal to our foreign secretary. It is in the public knowledge. So, whether it has been accepted or not, I would not like to comment neither would I know, frankly speaking.

News18: You know the point of contention again and I want to go back and move to the conclusion of Jadhav case we were talking about the Kashmir internationalisation that Pakistan wants to do at LoC which is extremely hard at the moment. Why is that Pakistan is making both the western and eastern borders volatile?

Basit: I said earlier, the question now is that let's accept and I think India also realises that Jammu and Kashmir issue is to be resolved now you tell me how can we resolve this issue, as per the Shimla agreement, we need to resolve it bilaterally. We have been trying for the last 45-46 years Pakistan still wants to resolve it bilaterally we do not need to internationalise this issue. The issue is all India International issue because of the UN Security council resolution so you cannot escape this resolution.

News18: Sir, there is concern pushing of terrorist infiltration from the Pakistani side we have also seen that the Pakistan armies are involved in beheading two of our jawans. India has said that it has its evidence that there is a trial of blood and India wants action taken against Pakistani commanders for indulging in this heinous activities?

Basit: We have always, you know, who will decide about all these things. Who will accuse us..

News18: They are barbaric act of beheading.

Basit: Our army never gets involved in these acts, I can assure you because as a professional, we do not get into these things.

News18: If Pakistan at the moment is so confident of that, why doesn't it carry out a probe to see how the beheading happen?

Basit: Nothing happened, so what to probe?

News18: How is it possible that the beheading happened when India is saying that behaeadings happen, why doesn't anybody tell the country that two of the Jawans were beheaded?

Basit: Because we cannot settle this issue bilaterally, so let’s utilise those available tools. For example, our nation’s military observer probe that is one institution where our two countries can place facts before them. Let them decide what happened because Pakistan is always ready to cooperate with India in this Matter. But unfortunately we do not get positive response from the Indian side

News18: Sir, if Pakistan is ready to cooperate Indian army is saying that there is an attempt to increase infiltrations, India has found five posts in Pakistan and they have categorically said that they have involved in pushing terrorists.

Basit: I am yet to receive reports from Pakistan. I do know whether these reports are correct I am not in a position to comment

News18: Indian army has put out a video of that because Pakistan has denied Surgical strike there is also a video available , infact it is running o our channel at the moment here , you can see the video that is been released

Basit: That is not a thing to brag about, it's only reinforces Pakistan's contention that we need to resolve issues peacefully and politically, so how long we will continue having this situation.

News18: Sir, I want to move on to the other aspect of possibility of a dialogue if Pakistan is looking for some possibility on the sideline of the SEO summit.

Basit: I do not know. At this point in time there is no proposal from either side of a meeting at Astana.

News18: Clearly, Nawaz Sharif is seen as a person who has been weakened because of the Panama papers. Because elections are coming next year. He is under tremendous pressure at the moment and it is widely believed that the army is armtwisting at the moment in several accounts and therefore, even if he wants perhaps to meet Prime Minister Modi on the sideline of SEO summit the army will not allow that.

Basit: He is an elected PM of Pakistan and he is in the driving seat and there is a consensus in our country that we would like to have a good normal relationship, so there is no problem as far as Pakistan is concerned. I think it is on the Indian side, perhaps you know some reflection is required whether what kind of relationship they want they would like to have with Pakistan?

News18: What's their effort on the back channel talk through Mr. Sajjan Jindal?

Basit: That is a private visit nothing official about it.

News18:  But you know, the timing of that visit was such that it, appeared to indicate something perhaps on at that time at Khulbhushan Yadav , of course now the matter has gone to ICJ.

Basit: There is no linkage between the two whatsoever, it was a private visit as I said.

News18: India and Pakistan after a very long time will be playing a match in the ICC Champions Trophy, will Pakistan be interested at that stage to discuss a bilateral series between the two? Did you even see that ever happening can that pave the way to improve the relationship?

Basit: There has never been a dearth of interest on the part of Pakistan. We would like to have all these bilateral activities.

News18: Sir, in that case, why is the probe in 26/11 stalled so continuously in Pakistan and why is Hafiz Saeed, even though apparently under house arrest,  how is it that his son continues to spew venom against India.

Basit: Years and years I can cite many examples in India where trials have taken more than twelve years, 15 years. For example: the Samjhauta express took place in 2007.

News18: Sir, there has been a terror activity wherein your minister is now saying it is instrumental in creating terror within Pakistan itself.

Basit: But we have covered a huge ground since 2008. The trial has moved forward now we are waiting for 25 Indian nationals to appear before Pakistan and we hope that we will have Indian cooperation in order to push this trial.

News18:  How would you react to the  criticism that the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed was nothing but a sham because JDU activities continued. Talha Saeed continues to fume evil against India in the heart of Pakistan?

Basit: It is your prerogative to give it any name, but we have put him under house arrest in our own national interest.

News18: You have been in India. Your tenure is winding up in a bit. Where do you see the relationship of both the countries going from here?  Is there any real advice that you can give both the countries in order to improve the relations?

Basit: I for once do not believe that our two countries are destined to live in mutual hostility forever. I think these are two mature nations to sit across the table, engage in the dialogue meaningfully and discuss all our problems. You have your problems we have our concerns, but as two mature responsible countries, we need to address those issues with sincerity and a serious sense of focus. I hope the time will come when our two countries will be able to live with each other in harmony and because this relation is not only important for our two countries is also important for South Asia and beyond in order for us to take advantage of countless opportunities unleashed by globalisation it is so important for both our countries to resolve all our problems particularly Jammu and Kashmir dispute, which has been there for the last 17 years. And it needs to be resolved according to the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

News18: Thank you for making time for CNN News 18.

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| Edited by: Nakshab Khan
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