ISLAMABAD - Pakistan will seek United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa’s help to bring India on the talks’ table, officials said.

Espinosa will visit Pakistan from January 18 at invitation of Pakistani government. This will be the first visit of the 193-member Assembly’s president to Asia-Pacific region since she took office in September last.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan will ask Espinosa to use her offices to convince India for talks as tension could aggravate into a war any time. “Pakistan has been trying to speak to India. We want a dialogue but they are always running away. We hope UNGA President can convince them,” said one official.

Another official said that Pakistan had prepared a case regarding India’s excesses in held Kashmir. “We will share the record with her and seek her help. The recent bloodshed invites UN attention,” he added.

The UNGA chief’s 5-day visit, he said, will ‘provide us an opportunity to discuss the regional as well as international issues’.

The UNGA President’s spokesperson Monica Grayley said that Espinosa looked forward to strengthening ties between Pakistan and the UN, promoting multilateralism and continuing her work with the country on the priorities for the 73rd Session of the General Assembly.

She will meet President Dr Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as well as representatives of the UN and of civil society.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, said that the country’s leadership had planned to discuss a wide range of global and regional issues with the UNGA President during her visit.

Pakistan-India ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The nuclear armed neighbours, having fought three wars since gaining independence from the British in 1947, regularly trade allegations of harassment and espionage against diplomats.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high since killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, in July 2016. An attack on Indian forces in September 2016 that killed 19 soldiers in Uri area of held Kashmir further heightened the tension. India also claimed that it had carried out a ‘surgical strike’ to avenge the Uri attack. Pakistan rejected the Indian claim.      

In 2018, the Indian forces carried out more than 2,358 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, resulting in the death of 26 civilians and injuries to 158 others.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammed Faisal, who is also the Director General South Asia, said that the ‘deliberate targeting of civilian-populated areas is indeed deplorable and contrary to human dignity, international human rights and humanitarian laws’. He said: “The ceasefire violations by India are a threat to regional peace and security and may lead to a strategic miscalculation.”

Former foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri said that a long-lasting peace between Pakistan and India was possible through people-to-people contact.

He said that Pakistan had taken a positive step by starting work on Kartarpur corridor and it was India’s turn to respond. “India should respond to Pakistan’s positive steps. The bloodshed in held Kashmir must end,” he added.

International relations expert Dr Huma Baqai said that India was being driven by extremist leadership. “(Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s administration is frustrated due to exposed corruption of the government, economic failure and its atrocities in Occupied Kashmir,” she said.

Dr Baqai said that Pakistan should present its case before the UNGA chief during her visit. “Her (Espinosa’s) trip will definitely help. Pakistan will have a chance to brief her on the situation in the region,” she said.