ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has raised serious concerns over India’s plan to open the Siachen Glacier region for tourism.

The Foreign Office on Thursday categorically said that Siachen Glacier was a disputed territory, which India could not open for tourism. “India has made attempts to occupy the territory of Siachen. The disputed land cannot be opened for tourists,” Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said here at the weekly press briefing.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had recently announced that tourists could access Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield between Pakistan and India, as both claim sovereignty over the entire territory.

The FO spokesman, however, said that India had not formally conveyed its decision on Siachen to Pakistan. The spokesperson said: “I have only seen the press reports in the Indian media regarding opening of Siachen for tourists. Siachen is a conflict zone between Pakistan and India (not a tourist spot).”

Responding to a question, Faisal said terrorism and extremism were rising in India which was a matter of great concern for Pakistan and the whole world. He said it was the right time for Indian civil society, media and politicians to introspect that on which way they were embarking, especially regarding minorities and the people of occupied Jammu Kashmir.

“Terrorism, extremism are rising in India which is a matter of great concern for Pakistan and world”

“It is a very serious issue. The rising extremism and intolerance in India are cause of great concern, not only for the world but also for sections within India,” he said.

Faisal said Pakistan desired good neighbourly relations with India and had maintained that all issues between the two countries including Kashmir should be addressed through dialogue and negotiations.

“However, the Indian side has always been vacillating. With its illegal and unilateral actions taken on 5th August 2019, India has made it extremely difficult to move forward,” he added.

Because of Indian obduracy, he said, “We could not move on improving people to people contacts, reviving the composite dialogue and discussing the opening of other sacred places. All these things cannot be done by Pakistan alone.”

When asked about the letter claiming death of abducted Pakistani Colonel Habib Zahir (retd), the spokesperson said it appears to be fake. He said that it was obviously campaign of sensationalization being undertaken by hostile agencies against Pakistan and its nationals.

He said Pakistan and the family of Habib Zahir were extremely concerned about his whereabouts, who was kidnapped more than two years ago from an area in Nepal close to Indian border.

About reports that MQM founder Altaf Hussain had asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to grant him asylum in India, Faisal said: “It is a very serious issue of immense concern to us. A comprehensive response will be furnished shortly.”

He said there was an attempt made by the Indian government to show “normalcy” in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir with the private visit of these few members of the European parliament, which has completely failed.

“The Indian attempt has not only failed but has also caused further embarrassment to India. The repression in Kashmir cannot be hidden from the international community. We believe that the dispute of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir can only be resolved as per the Resolutions of the UNSC and wishes of the Kashmiri people,” he added.

 

Position on ME illegal settlements

 

Faisal said that Pakistan’s position regarding illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories remains unchanged, in line with several UN Security Council resolutions especially Resolution 465 (1980), 1860 (2009) and more recently resolution 2334 adopted in December 2016.

“We consider that all Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law and it would further hamper the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects of a lasting peace in the region,” he added.

Moreover, he said, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had also repeatedly pronounced on the issue of illegal settlements considering it a violation of the international law. “Being its founding member, Pakistan’s position is also aligned with that of OIC,” he said.

To a question, the spokesperson said Pakistan had already agreed to receive 5000 pilgrims per day from the Corridor. “However, there are some reports of Indian reluctance and creation of problems for the Yatrees. The government of Pakistan remains committed to implement the Agreement in letter and spirit,” he added.

When his attention was drawn to the State Department of the United States that Pakistan was not doing enough against the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, Faisal said: “Our position is very clear on this. Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism and extremism are recognized worldwide. Pakistan will continue with its actions.”

To a question on Gilgit-Baltistan, he said, it was Pakistan’s considered view that the resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute should be as per the UNSC Resolutions and the wishes of Kashmiri people.

“We have never intended to make it (Gilgit-Baltistan) a province. However, the economic and social development of people of the area cannot be held hostage because India is not willing to resolve the dispute of Kashmir as per the Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. In this regard, efforts were carried in the past and will also be done in future,” he explained.

Desecrating of Quran in Norway condemned

About the incident of burning and desecrating of Holy Quran in Norway, Faisal said: “I have not seen the report that you have mentioned. However, our policy on this is very clear and in accordance with the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). We utterly condemn such incidents. We respect all religions and expect similar sentiments from others.”