Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit has said it is important that India and Pakistan should work together to address South Asia’s challenges.

In an interview to an Indian newspaper The Hindu, he said, “Most of our diplomatic processes are consumed by perennial gridlocks. This is an important relationship. We need to spend more time and energy resolving the key issues.”

Responding to a question he explained, “Pakistan has been engaging with the Hurriyat, and we never thought it should be a problem, and still don’t. We have been meeting the Hurriyat leadership and there has been no problem. Our meetings should be seen in a constructive way, as it helps us find a just and fair solution to the long-standing dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s position is that the Hurriyat represents the political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and that’s why these talks our necessary.”

Talking about Pakistan’s triumph over India in the ICC Champions Trophy final at the Oval in London, Basit said, “We should play cricket and other sports too. If we put off all sporting ties until we solve our problems, that wouldn’t be wise. These events do help create a better environment and we need that.”

He stated that, “Sports and politics should be kept separate and Pakistan has been proposing and suggesting cricketing ties and others throughout. So our position is very clear.”

He said, “Pakistan is very hopeful because Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took a very bold decision to travel to India in May 2014, but after that the process got stuck. Not withstanding all the problems, the two countries were able to agree on a framework to restart talks in December 2015 and on the comprehensive bilateral dialogue, which was our biggest achievement in the last three years. Now, whenever the two sides agree to talk to each other, at least we wouldn’t be spending too much time finalising the modalities for talks.”

“In diplomacy, you cannot simply lock the door and throw the key away. You have to keep the door open for possibilities. I am hopeful that Pakistan and India will talk to each other, but whether it happens now or two years down the road, I do not know,” he added.

Abdul Basit told that, “Pakistan strongly feels that talks and preconditions do not go together. India has a different position. Now terrorism is also a big issue for us, and in Pakistan, Kulbhushan Jadhav’s conviction has proven our concerns.”

He said, “We aren’t shying away from issues like terrorism. But even when you look at the Mumbai or Pathankot attacks, if you want to conduct a proper trial, the two countries would need to cooperate with each other. And this cooperation cannot take place in a void or a vacuum. Without talking, how can you realistically expect these issues to come to a close? I feel that now that we have a framework under which to resume talks, it is just a matter of time.”

The envoy said, “The issues remain the same. No matter how much you fiddle with this framework, you will end up coming to the same issues. Obviously we don’t expect overnight results, but our engagement must not be interrupted. Only then can we move beyond this environment of accusations.”

“As I said, talks and preconditions can’t go together. We have no qualms about solving our problems bilaterally, and we have been trying to do that,” he said.

When asked that Pakistan seems to be constantly looking for a third party, Basit said, “We have not seen much progress in the 40-plus years since the Shimla agreement (1972) on bilateral talks, on the core dispute. If there is no movement on the bilateral front, you cannot expect Pakistan not to even discuss that with the rest of the world. Jammu and Kashmir is central to Pakistan-India relations and we feel that is the root cause of all our problems.”

“The UN Security Council did in its resolution 1172 of June 1998 state that Pakistan and India should resolve their bilateral disputes, including Jammu and Kashmir. So the international community is aware of the problem. In a recent interview, the Saudi ambassador also showed an interest in facilitating dialogue between India and Pakistan,” he said.

He further said, “In October 2016, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz said that there was “no hope for a breakthrough” with India under Prime Minister Modi. Is your assessment that at least until Pakistan’s elections in 2018 or India’s in 2019, there will be no movement?"

He said, “We do not see any move on the part of New Delhi to reach out for a structured dialogue with us. This is the impression we get, that there is no hope for a breakthrough at present. But that is not what we hope will happen.”

Abdul Basit added, “Issues remain the same. These are offshoots of the same problems we have been grappling with. You mentioned that India brought up Balochistan; we raised (India’s support to) Balochistan in 2009 at Sharm el-Sheikh.”

“In our view, the surgical strikes never took place, and it was Delhi’s decision to take the Jadhav issue to an international court, let’s see what happens. All these new issues that you mention only complicate the path to addressing the root causes: terrorism, Kashmir, Siachin, Sir Creek and others.”

Responding to a question about Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) Chief Hafiz Saeed, he said, "No individual in Pakistan is above the law. It is not the first time he has been put under house arrest, the law will move against him. At the end of the day it is for the courts to decide. If we do have evidence maintainable in a court of law and if India cooperates by giving us hard evidence that could help too."

He said, “The government is trying its best. The groups Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) all have been banned in Pakistan.”

Basit clarified that Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), Falah-e-Insaniyat (FeI) and Tehreek Azadi Jammu Kashmir (TAJK) are not banned organisations at present. They are being observed and if they are found taking part in any illegal activity, rest assured it will be taken seriously and they will be proscribed.

He said, “The case against Hafiz Saeed is serious. We are trying our best to ensure that the detention order against Hafiz Saeed is not reversed. There is no love lost in Pakistan for anyone involved in such acts of violence.”

Talking about South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, he said, “I haven’t seen any move to hold the SAARC summit yet. This hasn’t happened for the first time, and SAARC has been held up before. We wouldn’t like the process to suffer, as all the countries in South Asia have invested a lot in it. There is no proposal under consideration to move the venue, and Pakistan will host the 19th SAARC summit, whenever that happens.”

Responding to a question about Jadhav case, Abdul Basit said, “There is a process that is ongoing, and if Jadhav’s appeal would be rejected by the court, that would be the time for the Army chief or the president to reconsider the sentence against him. He has been tried, he has been convicted, and he has the right to appeal. If that is rejected, then he has the right to submit an application for clemency to the Army chief, and if he denies it, then to the president. So there is room for a rethink there.”

He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment not to carry out the sentence given that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has given dates for the process on India’s case up to December 2017. “Yes that is clear, that goes without saying. We would like this process to be over quickly, but until it is, we are committed,” he said.

He added that, “There is no back channel between our two countries. We must first think of a formal structured dialogue and then we can think of a back channel. Even at that time, the back channel was in parallel to a front-channel process, so that was a different phase in our relationship.”

When asked if the four-step formula for Kashmir which includes making borders irrelevant by allowing cross-Kashmir movement was still acceptable to Pakistan, he said, “As far as Islamabad is concerned, no solution is acceptable unless it is acceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Any other solution will fall apart very quickly.”

He said, “The highest point of my tenure was our decision to resume the dialogue and agree on a framework for the comprehensive bilateral dialogue in December 2015. As far as the lowest point, I don’t yet know. Even after the Pathankot attack, we were able to maintain relations for a few months.”