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India on Thursday said the onus is on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror and hostility, days after Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s comments that it is time to extend a “hand of peace in all directions”. “Our position is well-known. India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said. He was asked to comment on Bajwa’s remarks.

“The onus is on Pakistan for creating such an environment,” Srivastava said. In an address at the graduation ceremony of Pakistan Air Force cadets, Gen Bajwa on Tuesday said Pakistan was firmly committed to the ideal of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence. “It is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions,” he said in comments largely seen as a message to India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s foreign office said on Thursday that Bajwa’s statement on “extending hand of peace in all directions” is reflective of the country’s desire for peace and security in the region.”Pakistan has repeatedly been saying that the onus is on India to create an enabling environment” for talks, Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said during his weekly media briefing here on Thursday.

He said that Pakistan always believed in peaceful settlement of all issues, including the core issue of the Jammu and Kashmir, and the statement by Gen Bajwa was a reflection of Pakistan’s desire for peace and security in the region. “The Army chief’s statement is a manifestation of Pakistan’s firm commitment to the ideals of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence,” he said Gen Bajwa said on Tuesday that “it is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions.” New Delhi has been maintaining its stand that “talks and terror” cannot go together as it continues to ask Islamabad to take demonstrable steps against terror groups responsible for launching various attacks on India.

Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship. The relationship further dipped after India’s war planes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terorrist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26 last year in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.

Withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special powers and bifurcating the state into two union territories in August 2019 also evoked a strong reaction from Pakistan, which has been unsuccessfully trying to rally international support against India on the Kashmir issue. India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was its internal matter. It also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.