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India denies Russia offer to mediate but Pakistan welcomes reported move

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-06-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: Pakistan on Thursday welcomed a reported offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin to mediate and resolve the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, at least two media reports from that country said.

Islamabad’s reaction welcoming the reported Russian move came during the weekly press briefing of Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria in Islamabad, a report in the Pakistani newspaper The Nation said.

“Pakistan also welcomes the mediation offered by him (Putin) to resolve Pakistan-India tension,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying during his weekly news briefing in Islamabad.

Pakistan Prime minister Nawaz Sharif had met Putin in Kazakhstan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit held in Kazakhstan earlier this month, Zakaria said.

“An immense potential exists in the field of education, culture, trade, and defense for further boosting the bilateral relations between the two countries,” Zakaria was quoted as saying.

He described grant of permanent membership of the SCO to Pakistan as “a milestone and significant achievement in the foreign policy.”

There was no immediate affirmation of denial of the Pakistani statement from the Russian side.

In New Delhi, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said “no offer of mediation between India and Pakistan was made by Russia to India”.

“ It is my understanding that Russia is very well aware of India’s consistent position to address all outstanding issues with Pakistan bilaterally in an environment free of terrorism and violence,” he added.

India-Pakistan ties are currently strained over what India says are Pakistan-backed terrorist attacks in India. Last year, there were three high profile attacks on military facilities in India, which put paid to efforts to resume a peace dialogue between the two countries.

New Delhi has always maintained all disputes with Pakistan will be sorted out bilaterally between India and Pakistan while Islamabad has always welcomed third party involvement or mediation.

Once seen as close friends with similar strategic interests and objectives, India and Russia seem to have drifted apart in recent years specially given New Delhi’s growing closeness to the US.

The US is now a key source of defence hardware for India with New Delhi designated as Washington’s “major defence partner”.

Meanwhile, Russia and Pakistan—which served as an ally of the US during the Cold War years and seen as having played a pivotal role in the defeat of then Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan—conducted their first ever bilateral military exercise in Pakistan in September.

Analysts in India had noted the development as a turning point in Pakistan-Russia relations with Russia also removing an arms embargo against Islamabad in 2014 and agreeing to sell its MI-35 helicopters to Pakistan—in a rare move.

In an interview to PTI earlier this month, Putin said Russia does not have any “tight” military relationship with Pakistan, and added that its close friendship with India cannot be diluted.

Putin also said that there is no other country in the world with which Russia has such “deep cooperation” in delicate areas including missile technology.

The Russian president however sidestepped a question on terrorism in Kashmir stating that it was up to India to assess whether Pakistan was fuelling terrorism there.

“But no matter where the threat comes, it is unacceptable and we will always support India in its fight against terrorism,” Putin had said.

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