White House welcomes Indo-Pak Ceasefire announcement; "Our position remains unchanged," insists India

    26-Feb-2021   
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New Delhi: The United States on Friday welcomed the joint statement between India and Pakistan on ceasefire along the Line of Control.
 
"This is a positive step towards greater peace and stability in South Asia, which is in our shared interest and we encourage both countries to keep building upon this progress," said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki.
 
India has meanwhile asserted that while there is no doubt it "desires normal neighbourly relations" with Pakistan, but it also has made clear on key and contentious issues New Delhi's position remains "unchanged".
 
"India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We have always maintained that we are committed to addressing issues, if any, in a peaceful bilateral manner. On key issues, our position remains unchanged. I don’t need to reiterate it," MEA spokesman Anurag Srivastava told reporters here on Thursday.
 
It is understood that NSA Ajit Doval, also a trusted aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had initiated backchannel communications with Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on National Security and Strategic planning.
 
Springing a major surprise, on Thursday morning, India and Pakistan agreed to observe a ceasefire along the Line of Control after talks between senior military officials through a hotline. The rare joint statement was issued by the Directors of Military operations of the two countries.
 
Moeed Yusuf of course denied his involvement in the entire episode and tweeted: "Obviously these are by their very nature not in the public eye and done privately and professionally through the direct channel".
 
"I have seen claims by Indian media that attribute today's ceasefire announcement between Pakistani and Indian DGMOs to back-channel diplomacy between me and the Indian NSA. This is baseless. No such talks have taken place between me and Mr. Doval," he wrote.
 
Meanwhile, on matters related to SAARC and neighbouring countries on health and Covid-19, MEA spokesman Anurag Srivastava said - "A workshop on ''Covid-19 Management: Experience, Good Practices and Way Forward'' with 10 Neighbouring Countries was held on February 18, 2021, which was addressed by Prime Minister Modi.
 
Among other things, PM proposed a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses, a regional Air Ambulance agreement for medical contingencies, creation of a regional platform for collating, compiling and studying data about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines among our populations and creating a regional network for promoting technology-assisted epidemiology for preventing future pandemics."
 
"These proposals were very well-received by the participating countries and follow-up action is being taken in consultation with concerned ministries," he said.
 
On LAC talks, he said - "The 10th round of the Senior Commanders meeting was held on 20 February 2021. As agreed earlier by the two sides, the 10th meeting was convened within 48 hours of the completion of disengagement in the North and South Bank of Pangong Tso."
 
Srivastava said - "The two sides had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on the remaining issues along the LAC in the Western sector. Both sides view the smooth and successful completion of disengagement in the North and South Bank as a significant first step as this forms a basis for resolution of remaining issues so as to achieve the eventual goal of complete disengagement in all friction areas".
 
The two sides have agreed to work towards a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues, he emphasised.