May 24, 2020
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"The LOC Isn't Exactly Demarcated"

Pakistan's foreign minister Sartaj Aziz spoke to Imtiaz Gul about the circumstances surrounding his proposed New Delhi visit. Excerpts:

"The LOC Isn't Exactly Demarcated"

India refuses to stop its Kargil operations till militants are pushed back. Pakistan wants it to end. How can dialogue succeed?
We won't ask India, nor should we, to continue or discontinue its military operations. But we'll continue to protest repression of the freedom movement and human rights violations there. We're concerned about the way India is going about its effort to crush Kashmiris. As for the objective of the talks, it's to reduce tension, to prevent further deterioration. Now, look, they've been claiming there are 400-500 infiltrators in the area. Then they said they've killed almost as many people. If that's true, the operations should end. Even if there is something wrong in the area, does that require 20,000 troops, 70-80 combat aircraft, helicopter gunships, heavy artillery? They need to be asked what they're actually up to, how recurrence of such a grand operation can be prevented. They may have a greater design behind it.

What sort of design?
It's difficult to venture a guess at this moment. Some people are talking of political motives, some of military. But it's quite possible that to further repress the freedom movement, and to violate human rights, India has raised the bogey of infiltrators and created conditions conducive for their operations. Certain things are obvious: India first mobilised troops and air force, then started violating the LoC, making incursions into Azad Kashmir, targeting first our military posts, then civilian targets. Most importantly, the ground situation doesn't really justify the level of intensity of military operations. As I said, the number of troops and aircraft far exceeds the number of mujahideen (as claimed by India). That's what makes us suspicious. Maybe they want to once again modify the LoC. Let me remind you that Simla Accord committed both the countries not to touch the LoC, but the Indians have altered it thrice since. They may be looking for some of the heights controlled by Pakistan.

What about India's 'safe passage' offer?
We have nothing to do with it, if the mujahideen are across the LoC, and they have to retreat into Indian-held Kashmir, then it's for them to decide what to do or how to react to the Indian offer. Do you think it makes sense to comment on something that has nothing to do with us at all? Stopping the mujahideen from crossing the LoC or offering safe passage is India's problem, not ours.

India asks how mujahideen can operate at such heights without the Pakistan army's active support-that there are Pakistani regulars involved.

You know, thousands of Kashmiri mujahideen have been fighting for their cause for some 10 years now-living in mountains and hills. It's really no big deal for them to reach such heights. Their activity has picked up in the past year or so because neither the UN fulfilled its pledge of self-determination nor India which has deprived them of whatever little rights they had. Do they have political rights, are their lives secure? It's these conditions, we think, that have made them accelerate their movement. That's why the Indians are looking for excuses to crush that movement.

Let me also categorically deny that there's no Pakistani-no Pakistan army personnel involved in the fighting.Do the Indians have any evidence to substantiate their claim? They suggest that we instigated the flare-up. This is nonsense. Kashmiris have lost 60,000 people in their struggle for freedom. Weren't they all Kashmiris? It's been an abnormal situation in Kashmir since '89, though India's been trying to tell the world that there's no problem.

What then is the minimum ground for resuming talks?
First, to ascertain what's actually happening in Kashmir. Since the LoC isn't exactly demarcated, we must ascertain whether somebody has at all crossed the line. In our view, here the role of UN observers is also critical. If India maintains there's no real problem in Kashmir, why don't they allow the unmogip to visit the area. They should go, patrol and see for themselves whether incursions have at all taken place or whether it is just a smoke-screen created to eliminate Kashmiri mujahideen.

What will be the agenda for such talks ?
It's very clear; to defuse tension and prevent further deterioration. Secondly to assess the situation and share our concerns, and then to try to find a way out. But Indians can't expect us to accept their approach of might is right. It's they who've been trying to ingress into our territory by violating the LoC and our airspace. No country can accept this.

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