ISLAMABAD - Pakistan said on Thursday that India’s no-first-use of nuclear weapons assertion was nothing but a hollow political gimmick.

Addressing a weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said India’s declaration was unverifiable.

To a question that India may be reinterpreting its nuclear doctrine of no-first-use by replacing it with the so-called pre-emptive doctrine, Zakaria said: “It cannot substitute for verifiable arms control and restraint measures.”

He went on to say: “In taking appropriate security measures, Pakistan has to consider capabilities and not intentions which can change anytime.

“It goes without saying that the talk about pre-emption in a nuclearised South Asia is highly irresponsible and dangerous and will not help the cause of promoting strategic restraint and stability in the region.”

The spokesperson said Pakistan had consistently supported a comprehensive convention on nuclear disarmament through negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in accordance with the principle of equal and undiminished security of all states. 

“In our view, piecemeal solutions such as the nuclear ban treaty, which ignore the security dimension of the issue and do not have all the relevant stakeholders — nuclear weapon states — on board, are not likely to yield the desired results,” he said. 

While Pakistan fully sympathises with the motivation behind this initiative Zakaria said: “we would like to stress the need for a realistic and pragmatic approach which tries to address the underlying genuine security concerns of states that force them to seek deterrence in the first place.”

He said Indian ceasefire violations were attempts to divert the attention of the international community from the deteriorating situation in held Kashmir.

“We regularly report the incidents to the United Nations. The international community is realising the threat to the regional peace posed by the Indian belligerent and warmongering posture,” he said.

On Iran and the US offer to mediate between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, the spokesperson said Pakistan had always welcomed offers of mediation, which had been made by various countries, to resolve the outstanding issue of Kashmir. 

“The world’s concerns have been developed against the backdrop of the deteriorating human rights situation in Kashmir,” he said, adding that India, as usual, reacted negatively to the US offer.

“India wants to speak of terrorism! We also insist on speaking of terrorism, which forms one of the elements of the comprehensive dialogue process.

We need to address the Indian-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. Kulbhushan Yadav and many other examples are irrefutable proof of Indian involvement in Pakistan,” he said.

Zakaria said India tried to hide the atrocities in Kashmir and was afraid of being exposed on account of crimes against humanity committed by Indian forces in Kashmir.

“India will eventually realise that the only solution to the Kashmir dispute is the realisation of the right to self-determination of Kashmiris through a fair and free plebiscite under the UN in line with the relevant UNSC resolutions,” he said.

He said protests in Occupied Kashmir during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were reflective of the strong prevailing sentiment of the oppressed people against the Indian occupation and repression.

 “We welcome the statement of Ambassador Nikki Haley (Permanent representative of the US to the UN) expressing concerns over the rising tensions between Pakistan and India and the offer of mediation,” he said.

To a question on Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan attached importance to facilitating movement of people from both sides. “We have conveyed our concerns to the Afghan embassy as well as authorities in Kabul to address the matter at the earliest,” he said.

Asked to comment on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees decision to cut cash grant from $400 to $200 for Afghan refugees under the voluntary repatriation programme, he said last year the UNHCR had increased cash grant to each returning refugee from $200 to $400.

“We believe it was a good decision as it helped the returnees in their initial resettlement in Afghanistan. We hope that the UNHCR would look into the possibility of raising this amount again to $400 as it contributes to the smooth settling of the returning Afghan refugees,” he said.

Zakaria said that Pakistan’s foreign policy was aimed at maintaining peaceful neighbourhood and friendly relations with all countries based on common interests.

As regards Afghanistan, he said, Pakistan constructively participated in all processes for facilitating peace and stability. “We believe there is a need for countries to work together for lasting peace and preventing any proxy war in Afghanistan,” he said.

He said: “All the work related to the border management is being done on our side of the border. Border management measures are being undertaken to tackle terrorists coming from across the border as well as to protect Pakistani citizens. One of the main reasons of the border management is to facilitate travel of Afghan people to Pakistan.”

Zakaria said that there have been official contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan recently, which were useful. “There is a growing understanding between both the countries to work together to tackle the common threat of terrorism,” he said. 

Regarding the upcoming conference on Afghanistan scheduled for April 14 in Moscow, he said both Iran and India were a part of the previous meeting. “This time the invitation has been extended to include Central Asia and some other countries,” he said.

The spokesperson said that given the international attention converging on the Asia Pacific region - particularly in the context of its huge economic and human resource potential and that of connectivity for trade and energy - bilateral relations of Pakistan with a number of countries have registered a positive trajectory including with Russia, Central Asia, European states and other countries.

About Iran’s concerns over the nomination of Raheel Sharif as head of the Saudi-led military alliance, Zakaria said, the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism was focused on combating terrorism by promoting solidarity and cooperation among the Muslim countries.

“It is neither for nor against any country. The terms of reference of the alliance are yet to be developed. However, Pakistan’s endeavour would be that the alliance serves to bring Muslim countries together in the fight against terrorism. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are brotherly Muslim countries,” he remarked.

He said Pakistan condemned racism and persecution of religious minorities anywhere in the world. “We have noted concern expressed by the civil society members on the recent attacks on Nigerians and Kenyans, which are a reflection of growing extremism and intolerance in the Indian society,” he said.          

He said the treatment of minorities and the systemic violations of human rights in India especially Muslims, Dalits and Christians continued to be a matter of serious concern as has been raised by various human rights organisations and governments all over the world.  

The spokesperson said the recent US report “constitutional and legal challenges faced by religious minorities in India” also underscored the dramatic escalation of hate crimes against minorities in India, their social boycott and forced conversion.

Questioned if Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder Altaf Hussain’s case was discussed with the visiting British parliamentary delegation, he said: “All matters of mutual interest were discussed including Kashmir.”

To a question on US-Pakistan ties against the backdrop of the Dr Shakeel Afridi’s case, Zakaria said: “With regard to our relations with the US, I have responded many times in the past that we look forward to working closely with the United States and enhance the existing bilateral relations. I think we should not see this longstanding and diverse relationship through the prism of one or two issues.”

About threats to Myanmar embassy in Islamabad, he said: “We will have to check whether we have received any such complaint in our Protocol Division, which is the focal point of contact in such instances.” 

Earlier, in his statement, Zakaria censured India for bloodshed in held Kashmir. He also condemned the recent terrorist incidents in Parachinar and Lahore.