Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry

Pakistan on Friday stopped short of categorically denying its involvement in some kind of backchannel talks with India though Islamabad has been insisting publicly that New Delhi should create an “enabling environment” for “meaningful dialogue”. Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry at the weekly press briefing was asked by several journalists about reported backchannel talks with India. Instead of rejecting it out rightly he said: States have their ways and means to communicate which remain available even during wars. Therefore, whether any talks are taking place between India and Pakistan is not important.

He added that the real issue was what should be discussed between the two countries and how the dialogue could be made meaningful and result-oriented dialogue. As for talks, Pakistan has never shied away from talks with India and has always maintained for the need of a meaningful dialogue’ and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including Jammu and Kashmir dispute, he said, adding that durable peace, security and development in the region hinge on peaceful resolution of the long-standing Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

But to keep up the public posturing, he once again asked India to create a proper environment for talks. India has vitiated the atmosphere, and the onus is on India to create an enabling and conducive environment for talks between the two countries, he said. In New Delhi, asked about media reports that backchannel talks between India and Pakistan were going on for more than a year, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi did not give a direct reply.

“If you talk about channels of communication on this issue, let me just recall that our respective high commissions exist and are functioning. So that is a very effective channel of communication,” Bagchi said on Thursday. India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. India has said the onus is on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror and hostility.

Responding to a question the Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman said that no decision was made as yet about the appointment of High Commissioner. Chaudhry also said that SAARC was an important organisation for enhancing regional cooperation and Pakistan was ready to host the summit whenever artificial obstacles created in the way of SAARC Summit are removed.

Talking about the role of the US in talks between Pakistan and India, he said Pakistan never shied away from talk and the international community can play a role in it. As for the role of third parties, including the US is concerned, we believe that the international community has an important role to play in averting risks to peace and stability in the region and facilitating a just and lasting solution to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions, he said.

Responding to a question about Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, he said Pakistan takes up these issues on a regular basis with the Indian side through an established mechanism that is in place between the two countries. We continue to underscore the need for a humanitarian approach in handling the prisoners’ issues, he said.

To a question about Afghan peace, he said that Pakistan supports “orderly” and “responsible” withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as a precipitous withdrawal would create a vacuum for spoilers. Talking about the visit to Russian foreign minister he said Pakistan desires a long-term, multi-dimensional and strategic partnership with Russia and enjoys close cooperation with Russia in a number of fields including trade, industrialisation, defence & security, and energy & infrastructure development.

During the recent visit of the Russian Foreign Minister, both countries reaffirmed their commitment to enhance cooperation in a range of areas including in the fields of counter-terrorism, defence training and defence equipment, he said.