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Kashmir issue remains cornerstone but Pakistan must engage with India: Bilawal

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday made a strong pitch for re-engaging with India, saying cutting ties with New Delhi would not serve the country’s interests as Islamabad was already “internationally isolated and disengaged.”

Addressing the Founding Day ceremony at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, Bilawal said: “We have our issues with India. Pakistan and India have a long history of war and conflict. Today, where we have serious disputes, the events of August 2019 cannot be taken lightly.”

The ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019.

India’s decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy.

On the Kashmir issue, Bilawal said it has formed a “cornerstone of any conversation that I’ve had since becoming the foreign minister.”

Bilawal, 33, assumed charge as Pakistan’s top diplomat in April.

“In May, we had the delimitation commission, and then just recently, the Islamophobic remarks of officials create an environment in which engagement is very difficult for Pakistan, if not impossible,” the minister said, referring to re-engaging with India.

Bilawal asked those present at the think tank event whether cutting ties with India was serving Pakistan’s interests, be it on Kashmir, be it on the rising Islamaphobia, or the emphasis on the Hindutva narrative in India.

“That I, as foreign minister of Pakistan, as the representative of my country, not only don’t speak to the Indian government but I also don’t speak to the Indian people. Is that the best way to communicate or achieve Pakistan’s objective?” the minister explained.

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