India cannot accept terrorism or it in any way legitimate as diplomacy: Jaishankar

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New York, May 26 (PTI) India cannot accept terrorism or it cannot accept that in any way legitimate as diplomacy or as any other aspect of statecraft, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday as he underlined that the recent agreement between the militaries of India and Pakistan on ceasefire is a 'good step' but there are 'obviously bigger issues”.

Jaishankar made the comments during a conversation with former US National Security Advisor General HR McMaster in ‘Battlegrounds’ session on 'India: Opportunities And Challenges For A Strategic Partnership’ presented by the Hoover Institution.

'Look what I can tell you at this point of time, is that we had an agreement some weeks ago between our Director General of Military Operations that we would not fire across at each other, across the Line of Control, which has seen a lot of that. And it’s seen a lot of that, mainly because there's been infiltration from their side,” Jaishankar said while responding to a question on Pakistan.

'So, the basis for not firing is very clear because the reason for firing is infiltration so if there is no infiltration there's obviously no reason to fire. That's a good step. But I think there are obviously bigger issues,' the minister, currently on an official visit to the United States, added.

The militaries of India and Pakistan, in a surprise announcement on February 25, said that they had agreed to strictly observe all agreements on ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and other sectors.

'At the end of the day, the two neighbours have to find ways. It's not a question of do we live with each other. You won't live with each other if you're agnostic about how you live with each other,” Jaishankar said.

'And you also pointed out that since 1947, part of the problem has been cross-border terrorism... So, there also has to be perhaps appreciation of what the costs have been to themselves. What it has done to their own society and how that has impacted them. I mean, they need to reflect on it because they are doing it to themselves,” he added.

'But I think it's important right now if there is thinking along the lines that there needs to be a better relationship with India. On our side there has been clarity of thinking, and the clarity of thinking is that we cannot accept terrorism, or we cannot accept that it is in any way legitimate as diplomacy or as any other aspect of statecraft. So let us see, you know where this progresses. Obviously everybody hopes for the best,' the minister added.

Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.

The relationship dipped further after India’s war planes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed in the same month.

The relations deteriorated after India announced withdrawing special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.

In March, Pakistan's powerful Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that it was time for India and Pakistan to 'bury the past and move forward” as he asserted that the peace between the two neighbours would help to 'unlock' the potential of South and Central Asia.

The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 72 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

Gen Bajwa’s remarks came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan made a similar statement.

On a question on Afghanistan, Jaishankar said the country, as any other society, has to decide its future.

'If things are what they are today in Afghanistan, it didn't happen overnight. It happened because in the last 20 years, a series of decisions and conclusions and policy judgments were made and they all took us in a certain direction,' he said.

'I do believe that for all its limitations and mistakes and there were many, the gains of the last 20 years in Afghanistan…. an entire generation has grown up in Afghanistan with a much better life than they had in the 20 years before that. I think that's something worth protecting, defending, nurturing.

'It's important that we understand that Afghanistan too is a pluralistic society with a diversity of ethnicities, viewpoints, faiths, that minorities are given their due, that women and children their rights are protected. All that was built up by the entire world, the United States, most of all, I do think that they are of great value and that they should not be likely sacrificed at the expediency of politics of the day,' he said.

At the end of the day, Afghanistan, like every other society has to be allowed its right to decide its future, he said.

'The current system may have its shortcomings, I mean I think even they accept it. But the question is how do you find an acceptable basis for who will govern Afghanistan. Some kind of acceptable basis has to be found. It cannot, it should not just be handed over without addressing that push to anybody,' he added.

The Taliban and the Afghan government are holding direct talks to end 19 years of war that has killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged various parts of the country.

India has been a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan. It has already invested USD two billion in aid and reconstruction activities in the country.

India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled. PTI YAS ZH AKJ ZH ZH