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Set aside Kashmir, focus on trade ties: Zardari
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March 01, 2008 15:18 IST

India and Pakistan could set aside the Kashmir issue to be resolved by a future generation while they focus on trade and economic ties to improve bilateral relations, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has said.

Dismissing the belief in some sections in India that the Kashmir issue could best be sorted out while the army is in power in Pakistan, Zardari, whose Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is set to form the new government, said people-to-people contacts and inter-dependence in trade could help negate the fear factor in both countries.

If India were to invite the new Pakistani prime minister for a visit, he would go to Delhi along with the leaders of all political parties that would back the PPP's government to signal Islamabad's desire for better relations, the husband of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto said.

While conceding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and President Pervez Musharraf [Images] "may have probably had the best understanding ever", he said: "I want to take (the relations) to a stage of such confidence-building that the fear factor diminishes from both angles. "

"People-to-people contacts should be improved, then trade inter-dependence of trade - if Indian industry depends on Pakistani energy and I depend on the Indian market for my  product to be sold, we are both inter-dependent, financially integrated industry-wise," Zardari told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN.

When it was pointed out that some sections in Delhi  believed the Kashmir issue could best be sorted out when the  army is ruling in Islamabad, Zardari said: "Well, we've had army rule for eight years. Have they solved it? I don't need to convince them, it talks for itself."

Asked about the Charter of Democracy signed by the PPP  and the PML-N in 2006 that committed both parties to resolving Kashmir issue in line with UN resolutions, Zardari said, "I am not getting hostage to that issue. The idea is that we feel for Kashmir, the PPP has always felt for Kashmir. We have a strong Kashmir policy, we've always had one."

"But having said that, we don't want to be hostage to that situation. That is a situation we can agree to disagree (on). Countries do, we have positions, you have positions. We can agree to disagree on everything."

Zardari said India and Pakistan could "agree to disagree on (the UN resolutions), we can wait, we can be patient till  everybody grows up further, maybe the coming generation grows up even further and then let's interact as human beings and come to a position of love."

Asked if the PPP would be willing to put aside the Kashmir issue just as India and China had set aside their border dispute to focus on other aspects of their ties, Zardari said: "Exactly."

When bilateral relations improve, the two nations can come back and tackle thorny issues with the benefit of improved ties.

"Today there are fixed notions. When dependency increases (and) we have matured enough (and) we've got trust between us, then nobody has fixed issues," he said.

Asked if he initially wanted to focus on trade and economic inter-dependency, he replied: "Yes, the idea is that (if) India needs to be an economical superpower, it cannot go without energy. The energy corridors are with me."

The new PPP government would be committed to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and would guarantee its security. Pakistan would also take steps to export "coal-oriented energy" to India, he said. 

Zardari said he was determined to break barriers and mindsets that deter trade. "That's the idea," he said.

Agreeing that the border issue between India and Pakistan should be set aside for a wiser generation and a better time, he said: "As it is, it's going to be a no-border world in the end."

Asked if there would be support across the Pakistani political establishment for such a move, Zardari said: "I think the economical dependency that I'm talking about, nobody has really made the Pakistanis aware what position they are (in) and what they can gain.

"When they realize that they can change, the world will change. Economically, it's a thousand per cent leap we'll get into and the benefit of the thousand per cent leap is going to (have an) effect across the board."

Replying to a question about the response to a possible invitation for the new Pakistani Premier to visit India, Zardari said: "I think we should go further than that. Just not visiting and meeting...Let's hit the road running let's meet with concrete steps, let's talk about SAARC, modern technology."

He said: "I think the new PM of Pakistan will not only visit India, he will visit India with the political parties' leaders following him. When he gets down, he'll be first (with) me, Nawaz Sharif (of PML-N), Asfandyar Wali Khan (of ANP), hopefully Maulana Fazlur Rehman (of MMA), hopefully  Altaf (Hussain)'s party (MQM) - we should all walk behind him, greeting India."

Asked if such a move might trigger a backlash in Pakistan, he replied: "That's what the leadership is all about, that's what popularity is all about - the fact that I do something with the will of the people is my plus not my minus."


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