ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has said that India should not be given priority for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership as it was engaged in a massive arms-buying spree.

Speaking at a weekly media briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that India’s massive arms-buying spree has turned it one of the top arms importers in the world, which was driven by its desire for regional hegemony and global power status.

“Several international reports and independent observers have drawn attention to the rapid expansion in India’s capability to produce fissile material for military use which has been made possible by the 2008 NSG waiver granted to India without appropriate non-proliferation safeguards and the subsequent nuclear deals struck with different countries. We expect that as the NSG debates the membership of non-NPT states, it would take stock of the consequences of the 2008 exemption and avoid a repeat of the same mistake,” he said.

Zakariya said that Pakistan had been compelled to acquire and maintain a deterrent capability to ensure its national security. “Pakistan never wanted to engage in any kind of arms race, nuclear or conventional. We have long maintained that the two countries need to engage in a meaningful dialogue for mutual restraint measures and conflict resolution for a lasting peace and stability in South Asia,” he said.

The international community, he said, has a role to play in prodding India to positively respond to Pakistan’s proposal for a “strategic restraint regime” in South Asia.

The growing Indian conventional and strategic capabilities, particularly its nuclearization of the Indian Ocean and the testing of inter-continental ballistic missiles with a range of more than 5000 kilometres were a clear indication of its global power ambition.

“This should be a source of concern for countries in the region and beyond. Pakistan, while remaining committed to the avoidance of any kind of arms race in the region, will continue to take appropriate measures to maintain strategic stability in the region and to ensure its national security,” he said.

To a question regarding the deployment of night vision drones by India near the Line of Control, the spokesperson said that Pakistan’s principled position on such issues was very clear and consistent. “We look at the arms race and defence buildup by India as adversely affecting peace and stability in the region. You may also like to refer to our previous statements in this regard,” he said.

He condemned the violations by India along the LoC terming them a matter of concern for Pakistan because they heightened tensions in an atmosphere which was already not good.

“India’s main reason behind these violations, as we have said time and again, is to deflect the attention from its atrocities in Kashmir. I have seen reports that since 2013, there have been over 1,400 unprovoked violations by India. Only in last year, there were more than 400 violations from the Indian side. We condemn their attacks on innocent civilians,” he said.

About the case of Kulbhushan Yadav, a serving Indian Naval officer working for the Indian intelligence agency, who is Pakistan’s custody, he said the Indian spy was apprehended by the law enforcement agencies in March 2016. “He confessed his involvement in subversive and terrorist activities in Pakistan. The matter has already been taken up with India, the response to which is still awaited,” he said.

The spokesperson said that the meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission was a regular meeting under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). “It seems that finally, India is realising the importance of the mechanism under the IWT for resolving water disputes related to the Indus River and its tributaries. Further details may be obtained from the Ministry of Water and Power which is the line ministry for the subject,” he said.

To a question, Zakariya said that ever since the two Pakistani boys – who have now been released by India– had been arrested in the Uri attack case, “our mission remained in touch with Indian Ministry of External Affairs and, of late, almost on a daily basis.”

According to Indian Ministry of External Affairs, the National Investigation Agency had completed investigations and not found anything against them.  “They will be repatriated tomorrow (March 10) through Attari/Wagah border,” Zakariya said.

On the release of Swami Aseemanand by an Indian court in the Ajmer Sharif bombing case despite confession, he said: “The Samjhauta Express terrorist attack took place in February 2007. In December 2010, Swami Aseemanand made a public confession that he was the mastermind of the attack, along with Abhinav Bharat’s head, Colonel Purohit, who was serving as an army officer. In that terrorist attack, mostly Pakistanis were killed.”

The spokesperson said Pakistan was given assurance at the highest political level on numerous occasions that India will share investigations about the attack, but they shared nothing.

“What we have noted is that over the last few years they had been exonerating people involved in the Samjhauta attack. What you referred to is Ajmer Sharif bombing in which also Swami Aseemanand was involved and in that case, he has now been acquitted. We have been pursuing the case with the Indian government and we hope that they will share the findings/investigations collected so far in the case with us and perpetrators will be brought to justice,” he said.

He condemned the victimisation of the Kashmiris in the held territory. He said the world should take notice of the excesses being committed by India.

Zakariya said that Pakistan had continued to point out the gravity of threat emanating from groups like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaatul Ahrar enjoying sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

“The recent terrorist attacks have once again vindicated our position. As regards the Indian involvement in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, this is a matter of fact as we have undeniable proof. The arrest of Kulbushan Yadav is a case in point. In this context, we have been constantly highlighting the use of Afghan soil by India against Pakistan,” he elaborated.

Asked about the low-level Afghan participation in the Economic Cooperation Organisation summit, he said: “Afghanistan is a sovereign country and can make its own decisions about attending such meetings. The ECO summit provided a great opportunity to Afghanistan to be part of the meaningful deliberations at the ECO Summit for promoting regional connectivity particularly in the fields of energy and infrastructure.”

Zakariya said: “Our region has rich mineral and energy resources. Therefore, the ECO summit provided all member states with an opportune occasion to materialise the potential of their region.”

He said the 13th ECO summit had been very successful. The summit, he said, welcomed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as a far-reaching initiative that would act as a catalyst for the development of the entire region.

When asked about Pakistan’s decision to close the border with Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan was forced to close the border because of the threat of terrorism from groups such as TTP, JuA and Daesh based in Afghanistan.  “We hope the Afghan government would cooperate in managing the border,” he said.

The spokesperson said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Kuwait was very successful. He said that Kuwait’s official media reported that there were no visa restrictions on Pakistanis.

To a question, he said that certain Pakistanis were arrested in Saudi Arabia for allegedly violating local laws, which included two transgenders. “After our mission intervened, most Pakistanis were released.

However, one of the two transgenders passed away because of cardiac arrest and not due to torture. Reportedly, his medical history testified that ‘he had heart-related problem’,” he explained.