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Pakistan poll promises: Peace, not posturing with India

Last updated on: May 9, 2013 15:11 IST

Pakistan poll promises: Peace, not posturing with India

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad

Pakistan's major political parties have pledged to work for better relations with India and to resolve outstanding issues like the Kashmir dispute through dialogue while pushing economic ties.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, widely tipped to emerge as the single largest party in the May 11 general election, in its manifesto promised to carry out a comprehensive review of Pakistan's security and foreign policies as the country "is at war within while isolated abroad".

It sees the normalisation of relations with neighbours like India as a key element of this new strategy.

The party's manifesto says "it will pursue a policy of normalisation with countries with which we have differences, so as to seek their resolution by means of peaceful negotiations, with the objective of establishing cordial and cooperative ties with all countries, especially those that are our neighbours".

The PML-N said it would make "special efforts" to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions and the 1999 Lahore Accord and in "consonance with the aspirations of the people" of Kashmir "for their inherent right of self-determination".

The party led by former premier Nawaz Sharif has also tacitly acknowledged India's concerns about terrorism by stating in its manifesto that "non-state actors" were using Pakistan "as a sanctuary to pursue their own agendas".

The PML-N is the only political party to bring up the issue of "water management" in the context of relations with neighbouring countries in its manifesto.

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Image: Nawaz Sharif (centre), leader of political party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, addresses an election rally in Islamabad
Photographs: Reuters

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Pakistan poll promises: Peace, not posturing with India

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The proper use of river waters will be accorded "urgency and importance", it said.

In recent years, differences over sharing river waters have emerged as a key irritant between India and Pakistan. Islamabad has opposed several water projects being built by New Delhi in Jammu and Kashmir, claiming that they violate the Indus Waters Treaty.

The Pakistan People's Party and its erstwhile allies in the outgoing coalition -- the Awami National Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement -- have pledged to continue with the work done in the past five years to build better relations with India.

In a section of its manifesto titled 'Engaging with the world', the PPP listed the normalisation of trade relations with India among some of the important achievements of its government over the last five years in integrating regional trade and commerce.

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Image: Supporters of Muttahida Qaumi Movement surround television screens broadcasting a speech by their party leader Altaf Hussain from London via video conference in Karachi
Photographs: Reuters

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Pakistan poll promises: Peace, not posturing with India

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"The pursuit of an honest and sincere dialogue for the resolution of all outstanding issues with India, including the core issue of Kashmir, the normalisation of trade relations and the easing of travel restrictions, are in line with the commitment to regional peace," the manifesto said. The PPP said it supports the rights of the Kashmiri people and had pursued a dialogue process with India on all key issues, including Kashmir.

"We will not allow lack of progress on one agenda to impede progress on the others," it said. "Without prejudice to UN Security Council resolutions, we support open and safe borders at the Line of Control to socially unite the Kashmiri people. We note that India and China have a border dispute and yet enjoy tension-free relations," the manifesto said.

"Consistent with our belief that continued diplomatic, economic and security engagement with all our neighbours is crucial for building confidence and stability in a region facing multiple challenges, we will persist in spearheading a roadmap and a diplomatic surge for enhanced relations...with Afghanistan, India, Iran and China," it added.

The outgoing PPP-led government sought to bring "consistency and confidence" to relations with India. The PPP will try to "ease tensions with India through peaceful and uninterrupted dialogue on outstanding disputes".

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Image: Pakistan Muslim League President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain shows the media his party manifesto during a news conference in Islamabad
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

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Pakistan poll promises: Peace, not posturing with India

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The ANP's manifesto acknowledged that India plays a major part in international affairs and this can be turned to Pakistan's advantage.

The establishment of "peaceful, cooperative good neighbourly relations with India will be given high priority", it said. The MQM called for an independent foreign policy and "close, friendly and honourable relations" with countries like India.

The MQM wants to solve the Kashmir issue through "meaningful, sincere and honourable dialogue" and encourages confidence-building measures and talks with India, the manifesto said.

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Image: Asfandyar Wali Khan (right), leader of the Awami National Party, speaks to the media
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: MQM , India , ANP , Pakistan , Kashmir

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Pakistan poll promises: Peace, not posturing with India

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Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, considered a favourite of the powerful security establishment, lists the resolution of the Kashmir dispute as one of Pakistan's "core national interests".

Its manifesto says the party will "assert a nationalist paradigm in external policy with foreign relations being based on respect for sovereignty, mutuality of interests and regional peace".

The party states that its long-term goals include "progressive detente with India" that will benefit both countries if it is "centred on conflict resolution and cooperation, especially in the field of energy".


Image: Imran Khan at a rally
Photographs: Reuters

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