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Pak will discuss Kashmir, Afghanistan, 26/11 with India

February 12, 2011 23:15 IST

India and Pakistan will have to resolve the 'core issue' of Kashmir according to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people if they want to give a boost to the peace process that is set to be resumed after an interval of over two years, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said on Saturday.

Referring to the recent public protests in Jammu and Kashmir, Bashir said, "Unless this core issue is resolved satisfactorily in accordance with the aspirations of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters, I don't see prospects in terms of a self-propelling peace process".

The upcoming talks to be held ahead of the Pakistani foreign minister's visit to New Delhi in July will have to "take cognisance of what has happened in the past in dialogue with India...and the actual ground situation" in Jammu and Kashmir, Bashir said, while addressing a briefing organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Pakistan.

There had been a "resurfacing of the uprising of Kashmiri youth, women and civil society" that was being "increasingly acknowledged by the international community and this cannot be wished away", he claimed.

"That has given an urgency to dealing with this core issue," he added.

At the same time, the two sides will have to focus on the progress made in the past on the Kashmir issue, including confidence-building measures for cross-Line of Control travel and trade, Bashir said in response to questions.

"I don't think we should jettison all the good work that was done by our predecessors over 60 years; we should also not be lost totally in the archives," he said.

"We need to approach these things with a great degree of clarity. We should also have clarity in what is doable and not doable and what time-frame is doable," the top diplomat said.

Asked about former foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri's remarks that the two countries were close to a settlement on Kashmir during the military regime of Pervez Musharraf, Bashir distanced himself from such claims and said discussions at that time were held through the back channel alone.

"There could be good discussions on the back channel, well intentioned, but they never acquired any status if they are never discussed the way it normally happens officially," he said.

Following the decision at the meeting of the foreign secretaries in Thimphu to resume the stalled dialogue, Pakistan will approach the parleys with "an open and constructive mind" with a view to dealing with as many issues as possible, he said.

The peace process is a 'work in progress', he said. "We are just resuming the process but hopefully beginning with a new spirit," he added.

Asked about the joint statement issued after the recent meeting in Thimphu that referred to the Mumbai terror attacks and made no mention of Pakistan's concerns on the Samjhauta Express bombing and the insurgency in Balochistan, Bashir said this did not mean that Islamabad could not raise these issues with New Delhi.

"It is in Pakistan's interest to have under the rubric of counter-terrorism a special focus on the Mumbai terror attacks. It does not preclude or exclude anything else," he said.

Terrorism is 'a much wider issue than Mumbai', Bashir added.

"We have nothing to hide. We want to really expose the reality behind terrorism, whether it is in Afghanistan, Pakistan or other countries," he said.

Referring to the situation in Afghanistan, Bashir said he had told his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao that the "worst thing that can happen to Afghanistan and this region is if India-Pakistan rivalry is superimposed on the already very complex situation there".

He indicated that Pakistan was open to the prospect of a 'dialogue or partnership' on the issue of Afghanistan.

However, all of Afghanistan's neighbours and the international community must respect the "sovereignty, political independence and unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan" as well as the "principle of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of Afghanistan", he said.

"No formula for addressing the situation in Afghanistan will be successful unless these principles are adhered to in good faith," he said.

Pakistan has "serious concerns over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan" and a 'legitimate interest' in the neighbouring country's stability and peace, he added.

The peace process in Afghanistan, including those initiated by President Hamid Karzai, would be successful if the Afghan people take ownership of them, Bashir said.

Bashir described as a 'positive sign' the decision to resume the dialogue process with India, promising to play the role of a 'game changer'.

"We are dealing with difficult and complex issues... Lots of patience and determination is required," he said.

The Rao-Bashir meeting in Thimphu on Sunday had come six months after the failed talks between External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad.

The composite dialogue between the two sides was put on hold after ten Pakistani terrorists carried out coordinated attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, killing 166 people. Before entering into talks with Pakistan again, India wanted the perpetrators of the attack to be speedily brought to justice.

Rezaul H Laskar In Islamabad
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