US says it backs 'direct dialogue' between India, Pak amid Shehbaz Sharif's willingness to hold talks

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said war was no more an option

UZBEKISTAN-SCO/ Shehbaz Sharif | Reuters

The US has responded to Pakistan's Prime Minister's statement that it was "prepared to talk" to neighbours because "war is no more an option", stating that Washington always "supports direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on issues of concern."

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said: "As we have long said, we support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on issues of concern. That has long been our position."

This came as Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif, while addressing a summit in Islamabad, expressed willingness to initiate talks with neighbours, without referencing India. "We are prepared to talk to them, provided that the neighbour is serious to talk [on] serious matters … because war is no more an option," he said. 

"With our neighbours, we are prepared to talk to them, provided that the neighbour is serious to talk on serious matters on the table because war is no more an option. Pakistan is a nuclear power, not as an aggressor but for our defence purposes. We had three wars fought in the last 75 years. And what happened is it generates more poverty, unemployment and lack of resources to finance, education, health and well-being of the people," PM Sharif added.

The relations between the two countries deteriorated after the Centre abrogated Article 370 in August 2019, thereby abolishing Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcating it into two Union territories. Following this, the Pakistan government, then led by Imran Khan, expelled India's ambassador to Islamabad and halted bilateral trade. 

Pakistan had earlier too offered to hold talks with India, but the Prime Minister's backtracked the statement in which it said that talks with India can only take place after the country reverses its "illegal action of August 5, 2019", referring to the abrogation of Article 370.

However, India responded by stating the atmosphere for dialogue is not conducive yet. "India’s position has remained clear and consistent. We desire normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in a conducive atmosphere that is free of terror, hostility, and violence," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said during a news briefing on Thursday.


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