Improved relations with India top priority: Kasuri
By Shaukat Piracha and Mohammad Imran
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan here on Monday declared improved relations with India “a matter of top priority” and reiterated a four-point formula for the solution of the Kashmir dispute.
“Pakistan makes a conscious effort to pursue a policy of friendship and equity with all its neighbours and has good relations with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. Improvement of relations with India remains, therefore, a matter of top priority for us,” Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said in a speech at the concluding session of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) conference here.
The minister said war was not an option. “The only alternative is to talk about all issues of concern to both countries, including the core Jammu and Kashmir issue, to talk substantively and with a view to achieving results,” he said. “We should have a sustainable dialogue, uninterrupted and uninterruptible, that will yield a solution.”
Mr Kasuri repeated the four-point formula for the solution of the Kashmir dispute President Pervez Musharraf first presented at Agra. The formula is: India and Pakistan recognise Jammu and Kashmir as a dispute; India and Pakistan start a meaningful and sustained dialogue; the two sides begin negating solutions that are not acceptable to either side; and they work towards a solution that is acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.
“This is a realistic offer. We can still pick up the pieces and work towards a meaningful dialogue which will address the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Mr Kasuri said.
The foreign minister called for the immediate resumption of talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. “A composite and integrated dialogue is the answer and it will generate its own momentum and pace for incremental gains. The 8-point agenda for talks was worked out by the foreign secretaries of the two countries in 1997 and 1998 and we do not have to reinvent the wheel. This agenda, along with the elements agreed at Agra can provide the basis for a comprehensive dialogue between Pakistan and India,” he said.
He said Track-I and Track-II diplomacy between India and Pakistan should go in tandem as one could not be a substitute for the other. The minister called the resolution adopted at the end of the conference a positive development. Later, in a brief chat with reporters, Mr Kasuri said Indian leaders would have to give the Kashmiri people hope that violence will end. He rejected allegations of cross-border terrorism, saying no fighter attacking Indian installations takes instructions from General Musharraf.
Earlier, Mani Shanker of the Indian Congress party said there was a need for sustained dialogue. He said the majority of Indians and Pakistanis wanted a peaceful resolution to disputes, only a small minority wanting more fighting.
Kanwar Khalid Younis of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said both sides needed to understand each other’s views before the disputes could be settled. Sirla Rajeshwari of the Indian Communist Party Marxists said writers should be given free access to both countries.
Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, editor of a national Urdu daily, said both sides had made mistakes, and needed to make sure they weren’t repeated. It was a good thing that the leaders of both countries wanted to start a dialogue.
Balbir Punj of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) said India wanted to be friends with Pakistan. He said he felt at home in Pakistan, and it was just like India.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam MNA Ishaq Khan Khakwani said neither country could prosper till the Kashmir dispute was resolved.
Nehal Singh said dialogue would benefit both countries. He warned that the disputes would take time to settle and so both sides must be patient.