ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Wednesday said India had launched an arms race in the region and Pakistan reserved the right to respond to aggression. Speaking to journalists here, he warned that any aggression or use of force will push the region towards instability. Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan remained steadfast to improve its relations with neighbouring countries to build a prosperous South Asia. His statement came after Prime Minister Imran Khan said Bhartia Janta Party’s victory in the Indian elections would give hope to resolution of the Kashmir issue. The Prime Minister said if the BJP wins Indian elections, “some kind of settlement on Kashmir could be reached.”

He maintained that if the next Indian government is led by the opposition Congress party, it might be too scared to seek a settlement with Pakistan, fearing a backlash from the right wing parties. Foreign Minister Qureshi stressed that conflict resolution was the key to strategic stability in the region. He pointed out the abiding threat to peace and stability emanates from Kashmir dispute which remains unresolved for about half a century. Qureshi said the Indian denial to the Kashmiris right to self-determination and its “blatant human rights violations have led to frustration amongst the Kashmiri youth.”

He said this was the reason that the ‘freedom struggle’ in held Kashmir had gained momentum and caught world attention. He said what “we are witnessing in Kashmir is the backlash of Indian atrocities inflicted on Kashmiris.” Qureshi said Pakistan remained steadfast to improve its relations with neighboring countries to build a prosperous South Asia.

Earlier, addressing the National Conference on Strategic Stability in South Asia, the Foreign Minister what the world was witnessing in Kashmir “is the backlash of Indian atrocities inflicted on Kashmiris.” He said the resolution of this outstanding dispute lied only in dialogue. The Foreign Minister said Pakistan was a peace loving country. He said our conduct as a nuclear weapon state will continue to be defined by restraint and responsibility.

He said Pakistan will maintain credible minimum deterrence to ensure its national security. The Foreign Minister said Pakistan was opposed to conventional and unconventional arms race in the region.  He said India’s massive acquisition of conventional arms coupled with offensive posture poses threat to regional peace and security. Referring to the recent Indian belligerence, the foreign minister said that Pakistan was committed to peaceful and normal relations in its neighborhood. He made it clear that Pakistan was capable to frustrate any misadventure. Qureshi said that Pakistan had shown it is prepared to take concrete steps to ease tension and work for friendly relations with India with Kartarpur corridor like initiatives. He said the neighbouring country also needed to understand that the only way forward was dialogue.

Pakistan and India have agreed to hold talks on Kartarpur Corridor on April 16. The talks will be on technical matters between the delegates of the two countries. Last week, India had abruptly postponed the Kartarpur Corridor talks in Pakistan - scheduled for April 2. The first meeting between the two sides was held at Wagah-Attari border on March 14 at which both sides agreed to work expeditiously towards operationalization of Kartarpur Corridor. On March 19, experts from the two countries jointly surveyed the coordinates of Kartarpur Corridor Zero Point and discussed the technical details, including Finished Road Level, High Flood level and others.  The two sides agreed on some technical aspects and expressed hope to finalize the other modalities at the earliest. 

Meanwhile, chairing the fourth consultative meeting with the diplomats here yesterday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan desired peaceful relations with all the neighbouring countries in the region. He said Pakistan wanted to resolve all outstanding issues with India through dialogue.

Qureshi said Pakistan will continue its cooperation for peace and stability in the region and Afghan peace process.

He said that recently held strategic dialogues with European Union and China indicate that “we are promoting bilateral ties with key nations for economic stability of Pakistan and to make our diplomacy effective.”

The Foreign Minister appreciated Turkey for holding an emergency meeting of the OIC in the backdrop of terrorist attack in New Zealand.

The consultative meeting also reviewed the facilities being provided by Pakistani missions abroad to overseas Pakistanis, said a foreign ministry statement.

Qureshi said instructions had been issued to all embassies of Pakistan to provide maximum facilities to the overseas Pakistanis.