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Pak has no objection to India-Afghan ties: Qureshi
Rezaul H Laskar
April 02, 2010 02:04 IST

Pakistan has no objection to India's [Images] relations with Afghanistan but these ties should not assume the dimension of encircling the country, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Thursday.

Qureshi made the remarks while briefing the Senate of the parliament on the recent strategic dialogue between the United States and Pakistan.

The US has recognised Pakistan's legitimate concerns about its interests in Afghanistan, which need to be addressed, he said.

India's relations with Afghanistan are long-standing and both countries have a right to have relations. "But there is a qualified difference. India cannot match Pakistan in its relations with Afghanistan, because India does not share a border with Afghanistan and its role during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan is clear to everybody," he said.

"The price which Pakistan has paid due to instability in Afghanistan, India did not even suffer a fraction of it," he said.

If India tries to affect Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, it is a cause of concern, Qureshi said.

"We have also conveyed these concerns to the US. Our apprehensions are legitimate and we informed them that these legitimate concerns need to be addressed," he said.

The US has shown seriousness in cooperating with Pakistan and realised that Islamabads grievances regarding the Indian presence in Afghanistan "should be addressed," he added.

The US also realised that if it did not meet Pakistan's security and economic needs, its own agenda for achieving stability in Afghanistan will be affected.

"They realised for the first time that Pakistan has genuine security needs. Economic development is a must for stability and to fight insurgency," Qureshi said.

Pakistan remained neutral in Afghanistan's general election and it had offered to train the Afghan security forces. Three million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan and hundreds of thousands of students are studying in the country, he said.

Islamabad's [Images] desire to have strategic depth should not be misunderstood for a desire to have a "puppet regime" in Kabul, Qureshi said.

Pakistan only wants a "friendly government" in Afghanistan as political and economic destinies of the two countries are interlinked, he said.

During the strategic dialogue, Pakistan conveyed the challenges it is confronting because of its involvement in the war on terror and the urgent need for aid. Qureshi said Pakistan had deployed 150,000 troops on its western border for the first time but that does not mean the country is oblivious to challenges from the eastern border due to outstanding disputes with India, he said.

Qureshi also said Pakistan is confident about obtaining a multi-year security assistance package from the US as it has been able to convince the American administration about the country's genuine security needs.

The US has agreed to the fast track delivery of equipment needed by Pakistan, he said. The two sides also agreed that the US would release a substantial amount under the Coalition Support Fund by the end of April and the backlog for the past year will be cleared by June, he said.

Funds from the CSF are meant to reimburse Pakistan for its expenses in the war on terror. During the strategic dialogue, Pakistan emphasised the need for early implementation of the longstanding proposal for setting up Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Legislation in this regard has been adopted by the US House of Representatives and the American administration has agreed to make it a priority in the Senate, he said. The US has shown willingness to consider Pakistan's request for more market access, he added.

Pakistan wants access for its textiles and if this is done, the country's exports will take a quantum jump of six billion dollars employment opportunities will be created for one million people, he remarked.

The US also accepted Pakistan's argument that frequent increases in power tariffs and implementation of other harsh conditions will impact political stability, Qureshi said.

Pakistan urged the US to influence the International Monetary Fund to get these conditions relaxed, he added. Qureshi noted that it was for the first time that a plan for follow-up action has been devised for understandings arrived at during the strategic dialogue with the US.

A calendar of events is being prepared for discussions in 10 different sectors proposed by Pakistan and agreed to by the US. The process of engagement in these fields will begin this month and the implementation of this plan will help improve the economic and security environment of Pakistan, he said.

The Foreign Minister said all stakeholders were on board for the dialogue and the defence minister, army chief and other important officials were part of the official delegation. In the past, security officials were not part of the dialogue and such parleys could not be considered as "strategic dialogue," he added.

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