Expressing “optimism” about improvement in ties with India, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit Wednesday said “one can never lose hope”.
“Many things have been spoken again and again. There are some accepted ground realities. Still, chances are always there for improvement in the ties. As a diplomat I am very optimistic,” said Basit, who was accompanied by his wife Summiya to a visit to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) to deliver a talk on “Pakistan-India Relations: The Current Situation” here at the sprawling Rashtrapati Niwas, formerly known as Viceregal Lodge.
“Diplomats never lose hope and while standing at such a historic place – Shimla, the summer capital of British India that has been witness to a series of pre- and post-Independence dialogues – one can’t give up hope,” he told The Indian Express.
Earlier, while interacting with scholars, including IIAS director Dr Chetan Singh, the High Commissioner said the process of dialogue between the two countries has “suffered a blow” after the terrorist attack on Pathankot air base but “still things are not so bad”.
“It (dialogue) got stalled following the Pathankot incident. However, an important thing that happened this time was that reaction from both the sides was not strong as had been the case during earlier attacks. There are good chances of engagement between the two countries in the process of dialogue,” he said.
Basit suggested that India “move forward” with its investigation in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast case.
Replying to questions raised by the scholars and IIAS fellows, Basit said “people to people contact” was the best way to bring some kind of stability in the relations. In fact, there is a strong need to create a mechanism so that any unforeseen happening doesn’t derail the process of dialogue, he said. “Some basic certainty in the relations between the two countries is of paramount importance.”
On suggestion from an IIAS fellow, Bettina Baurmer, the High Commissioner agreed to promote “inter-faith dialogue” between the two neighbouring countries. Basit also stressed on the need to promote economic and trade relations, apart from welcoming artists in India and Pakistan.
Basit earlier took a stroll at the lawns of IIAS and spoke favourably about the state. “I wish Shimla continued to remain a summer capital of India. This place is such an impressive hill station,” he said as he observed the architecture of the Rashtrapati Niwas, built in 1888, while being accompanied by IIAS director and other senior officials of the institute.