ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Thursday said that deployment of ready-to-fire nuclear warheads by India was alarming.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammed Faisal said that Pakistan had taken note of the self-congratulatory messages following the first “deterrence” patrol of the Indian nuclear submarine.

“This is a matter of concern not only for the Indian Ocean littoral states but also for the international community at large. This development marks the first actual deployment of ready-to-fire nuclear warheads in South Asia,” he said.

Faisal said that the ‘bellicose language’ employed by the top Indian leadership highlighted the threats to strategic stability in South Asia and raised questions about responsible nuclear stewardship in India.  Pakistan, he said, was committed to the objective of strategic stability in South Asia and believed that the only way forward for both the countries was to agree on measures for nuclear and missile restraint.

“At the same time no one should be in doubt about Pakistan’s resolve and capabilities to meet the challenges posed by the latest developments both in the nuclear and conventional realms in South Asia,” he added.

Faisal said that the world should come forward to stop India from using ‘lethal weapons, pellet guns and brute force against the civilians in the held Kashmir’.

The spokesperson said that after the United Nations Human Rights Office report, the United Kingdom’s parliamentary body’s report had also pin pointed the grave human rights situation in Kashmir where a number of marked and unmarked graves were being found as a result of the ongoing Indian brutalities.

Faisal said that Pakistan was ready for dialogue with India on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, adding that Pakistan also believed in resumption of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation process.

About the recent visit of US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and the case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the spokesperson said Dr Siddiqui’s case was important for Pakistan. “The issue was taken up with the US side very effectively during the recent visit of Ambassador Alice Wells. It is a very sensitive issue and we are treading very carefully in the matter,” he maintained.

Asked to comment on an official US report that the Afghan government had lost control over a record number of districts, Faisal said that Pakistan had always raised its concerns regarding the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, as ‘we are directly affected by this situation’.

He added: “The US report highlights the increasing ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan. These are utilised as sanctuaries by terrorist elements which cross into for terrorist activities. There is an urgent need to curb these notorious elements.”

He said that Additional Secretary (Afghanistan and West Asia) will represent Pakistan in the meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow today (November 9). “This dialogue is actually the meeting of Moscow Format on Afghanistan. Pakistan has been participating in this process since its inception. We have always maintained that the most viable solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is in Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process,” he said.

The spokesperson said that the role of Afghanistan’s neighbours would be important in such a process. “Afghan peace and reconciliation process supported by Afghanistan’s neighbours and important regional countries would have more chances of success. In this regard, it can be expected that this meeting would contribute to developing regional consensus in support of Afghan peace process,” he added.  On the proposed trilateral meeting of Pakistani, Chinese and Afghan foreign ministers in Kabul, he said: “We expect that the meeting can be a step towards lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

He said that Pakistan had released Mullah Baradar on the US request in order to move forward on the shared objective of pursuing a political settlement in Afghanistan. He said that the decision was taken following the visit of the US Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to the region and his meetings with Taliban representatives in Doha.

“He was released to provide impetus to the peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to pursue reconciliatory efforts to expedite and facilitate the process to our fullest ability,” Faisal explained.

To a question, Faisal said that Pakistan shared close cultural, religious and social affinities with brotherly Central Asian republics. “Many projects on connectivity and trade and transit are underway with different Central Asian republics either bilaterally or under the auspices of multilateral organisations such as Economic Cooperation Organisation which also involve Iran and Afghanistan,” he elaborated. Pakistan’s efforts at connectivity, he said, were not directed at countering Indian influence but aimed at creating an environment conducive to enhancing trade and people to people contacts within the region.

On the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said that the CPEC was a flagship project of China’s One Belt one Road initiative focusing on connectivity of infrastructure including roads, rail links, sea routes, ports, and connectivity of policy, trade and finance.

“This is located at the crossroads of Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia. It will directly benefit 3 billion people inhabiting China, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East,” he remarked.

He said that the CPEC should not be viewed in the prism of regional power dynamics, old style alliance formation or ‘Zero-Sum relationship’ between different countries. “The spirit of CPEC is cooperation and not confrontation; collaboration and not competition. It is a win-win project for everybody in the region and beyond,” he said.

About US sanctions on Iran, he said that Pakistan and Iran enjoyed close relations anchored in history, culture and people to people relations.

“Pakistan has supported Iran in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The US has granted concessions to 8 different countries who are major importers of oil from Iran including India. Pakistan’s import of oil from Iran is quite limited at present. Exports from Pakistan to Iran mainly consist of food items and textiles which are not affected by the sanctions,” he said.  To a question, he said that five inmates of Pakistani origin were currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay. They include Saifullah Paracha, Majid Khan, Abdul Rabbani, Ghulam Rabbani and Ammar Al- Baluchi.

He said that there was a procedure for registration of international non-governmental organisations which should be followed. He said that the government was helping Pakistani pilgrims stranded at the Baghdad Airport. “With the Embassy’s intensive efforts, 69 devotees were put on the next available flight while 5 have been put in another flight,” he mentioned.