Pakistan has negated claims that the Kashmir issue was close to settlement through backchannel diplomacy between Islamabad and New Delhi, with the country's foreign minister saying there was no mention of such developments in the records of the Foreign Office.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi said neither he nor the people of Pakistan have "any knowledge" about the proposal claimed to have been evolved by the previous military regime of President Pervez Musharraf."Any such proposal was never debated and there is no record of it in the Foreign Office," he said in an interview to a TV news channel.
Former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri has claimed that India and Pakistan had come close to resolving the Kashmir issue and it had been just an announcement away. Kasuri has said the proposed solution was kept secret and there was no record of it in the Foreign Office.
Musharraf too has said that an agreement had been reached in backchannel talks with India on Kashmir on the basis of proposals mooted by him. Qureshi said despite the importance of back channel diplomacy, disputes are finally solved through formal efforts.
Four rounds of the composite dialogue with India were completed during the tenure of the previous government while, one round was held by the current Pakistan People's Party-led government, he said. The Mumbai attacks of November 2008 had affected the process and "unfortunately India adopted a rigid position" in the wake of that incident, he said.But he claimed that "domestic pressure is growing on India" to resume the composite dialogue, authorities there are finding it hard to maintain their positions. Replying to a question, he said that India's alleged involvement in insurgency in certain areas of Pakistan was raised by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during his meeting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt last year.
Pakistan has certain outstanding issues with India which are being recognised by the world but it does not mean that the two countries cannot move forward, he remarked. There may be progress towards the solution of the Kashmir issue but it cannot be said that it will be resolved during the tenure of the present government, he added. Qureshi also said it is in Pakistan's interest to have good relations with its neighbours because the country is facing a number of economic challenges that need attention.
"To have normal relations with neighbours is a key step in this direction," he said. Responding to another question, he said that engaging with the US was in Pakistan's interest. Pakistan's relationship with America is neither one of compliance nor of confrontation, he added. The US wanted Pakistan to expand its military operations against militants but the country did not comply with their demand, he said. "We will keep our domestic conditions in view for making such decisions," he said.