ANKARA - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chose to speak his mind to an English Turkish newspaper ‘Today’s Zaman’ on vital national issues, including Kashmir, Afghanistan, terrorism and US drone strikes.
About the Kashmir issue, the prime minister said that the dispute was the longest outstanding issue on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council which had passed two resolutions.
The Security Council resolutions provided for holding of a fair and impartial plebiscite in Indian held Kashmir under the UN auspices to enable the Kashmiri people to exercise their right to self-determination.
He hoped the UN would play its due role in resolving this dispute. “Recent tensions along the Line of Control were indeed a matter of concern for us. Pakistan would continue to respond to the situation with restraint and responsibility,” he asserted.
He also renewed Pakistan’s commitment to a serious, sustained and constructive engagement with India that must include the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. “I have always given high priority to good relations with India for the sake of durable peace in the region,” he said.
He spoke in categorical terms that the US strategy to use drone strikes in Pakistan against terrorists not only violated their sovereignty and international law but was also counterproductive and caused further radicalisation in the society.
“These strikes undermined their collective efforts to counter extremism, terrorism and expressed his confidence that there was a rethinking in the US about the utility of the drone strikes,” he observed.
The prime minister said peace and stability in Afghanistan was directly linked to peace and stability in Pakistan.
He said his government had more than one option to deal with terrorists, but would use force only as the last option. He said terrorism knew no borders and curbing it was a global challenge. Pakistan and the international community, including the United States, had a shared interest in curbing terrorism.
The prime minister emphasised Turkey’s role as a bridge between Asia and Europe and Pakistan’s potential to become a gateway to energy-rich Central Asia. He said the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Turkey trilateral process was an important initiative aimed at promoting peace, stability and socio-economic development in Afghanistan.
“Physically, we may live thousands of miles apart, but our hearts beat together and we are truly one nation, two states,” he maintained. The prime minister said the unique geographical situation of both Turkey and Pakistan made them strategically important.