June 2003 News

Kashmir homework done, dialogue any time: Kasuri

18 June 2003
The Daily Times
Shaukat Piracha

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri said here on Wednesday that dialogue between India and Pakistan could begin any time because a lot of homework had already been done between the two countries over the years, but there had to be political will.'The basis of a roadmap for peace already exists and Pakistan and India do not have to reinvent the wheel. If there is political will, they can start the process of dialogue where they left off at Agra', said the foreign minister in an interview with Daily Times here on Wednesday. 'Premier Vajpayee has said homework was imperative for dialogue. Pakistan does not believe in rushing into a political summit without doing proper homework either, but this should not take months if there was political will', he said.Mr Kasuri argued that a lot of homework had already been done at the foreign secretary level in 1992-94 and 1996- 97. 'The credit is to the statesmanship of President General Pervez Musharraf and Premier Vajpayee, who reached a degree of understanding on the draft of an agreement at Agra. A look at the Indian as well as the international media will prove the agreements were about to be signed', he said.Mr Kasuri said the fresh bitterness in statements by India and Pakistan were understandable, as when Mr Vajpayee decided to accept Pakistan's offer of a dialogue by saying that he extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan in response to President Musharraf's repeated statements, his offer was preceded by belligerent statements from Indian leaders. 'As far as President Musharraf's statement on Kargil is concerned, it was quoted out of context. In fact, the president had said that after Kargil, both realized that war was not a viable option', he clarified. The foreign minister said it was ironic that Pakistan and India talk to each other when the situation is relatively normal but stop talking when it gets bad. 'For durable peace, we have to find a mechanism to take the aspirations of Kashmiris into consideration. It is a matter of common sense that there can be no durable peace if Kashmiris are sidelined', he said.He said it was unclear who would represent India at the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) in Bangkok, so 'no meeting has been planned between representatives of Pakistan and India yet', adding Pakistan had adopted a mature approach as he had not reacted to provocative statements from the Indian side.About considering granting India Most Favoured Nation status, the Mr Kasuri said he had asked India to join the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline as well as the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. 'Pakistan is willing to provide international guarantees. Pakistan has also expanded the list of importable items at the SAARC forum and more progress can be made in trade', he said. He said politicians are now advised to keep goals clear and educate people and move slowly in a pre-determined direction. 'If the Indians join the pipeline, it would create strong lobbies for peace', he explained.Asked about converting the Line of Control into a permanent border, he said 'President Musharraf has expressed that both sides have to be flexible. The president himself has stated that there were ten options for a solution to the Kashmir issue', but the Kashmiris had to be consulted.


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