MOSCOW (Sputnik), Valentina Shvartsman – Pakistan’s health ministry is reviewing a Russian offer of supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V, and will consider hosting late-stage clinical trials of the vaccine, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in an exclusive interview with Sputnik.
“This is a very welcome development and we congratulate the Russian government. It is also indicative of the expertise Russia has in medical sciences. The proposal has been floated and it’s under consideration of the Ministry of Health of Pakistan,” Qureshi said after he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
“We are open, we can consider it,” he added, when asked if the proposal including late-stage clinical trials of the vaccine in Pakistan.
Sputnik V was registered by the Russian Health Ministry on 11 August, becoming the first registered vaccine against COVID-19 in the world. The vaccine is currently in its third and last phase of clinical trials, as the Russian regions are expected to receive the drug on Monday.
At the moment, numerous countries have expressed their interest in getting Sputnik V as soon as possible in order to start vaccination when the trials have concluded.
No Talks With India Over Treatment of Kashmir
The minister added that he saw no opportunity for a dialogue with India as long as the latter maintains its present stance on the territorial status of Kashmir.
“In these conditions, as things stand today, I do not see any possibilities for reconciliation or bilateral talks with India. I do not see that. The way they are treating – or mistreating – Kashmiris. The Pakistani leadership will not engage with India until and unless they rescind the actions taken on 5 August 2019”, Qureshi stated.
When asked if Pakistan was considering the joint-governance of Kashmir, the minister said it was “no longer on the table”.
“Because of the Indian attitude, because of their belligerent attitude, because of the new mindset that is governing Delhi. The mindset of Akhand Bharat, that expansionist that hegemonic approach that they have, is threatening peace and stability in the region,” he explained.
The top Pakistani diplomat underlined that his government had offered direct negotiations to India after swearing-in, but the offer was not taken seriously by Delhi. He stressed that the situation in Kashmir had significantly deteriorated over the past year.
“The military siege continues. Over 8 million people live in an open prison. There’s a communication blackout. Independent observers are not allowed in. People of Jammu and Kashmir are deprived of all fundamental rights. Even under COVID-19 conditions, there was no letup, restrictions were not lifted”.
“There are search and cordon operations going on; extrajudicial killings are being reported; young boys are being picked up and tortured; excessive use of not just force, but pellet guns, you know, people have been blinded on account of the use of this pellet gun. Violations across the Line of Control in the last one year have intensified seriously,” Qureshi stressed, calling on India to honour its international commitments under the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The Pakistani foreign minister also touched upon the escalation of tensions between the two countries last February, which resulted in the shooting down of an Indian fighter jet in the border area.
“We retaliated, but not excessively, it was a defensive retaliation. We just demonstrated our alertness and our capability to respond, but we did not want to escalate the situation, and you must have noticed that the pilot that we had captured — we immediately, on our own accord released that pilot to defuse tensions,” he said.
The situation in Kashmir has been consistently strained amid conflicting sovereignty claims by India and Pakistan. It escalated further last August, when the Indian government decided to annul the special status of Jammu and Kashmir as a quasi-autonomous state, splitting it into two union territories under direct federal control.
In the lead-up to the move, India sent additional troops to Jammu and Kashmir and introduced a curfew.