September 2003 News

Islamabad floats idea of regional force: Checking militancy in Kashmir

13 September 2003
The Dawn

KATHMANDU: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri on Saturday called for the creation of a regional force to control militancy in disputed Kashmir state, 'Pakistan is ready to maintain a peacekeeping force from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region in the disputed areas of Kashmir to curb and monitor cross-border terrorism,' Mr Kasuri told an interactive programme involving Nepalese businessmen, industrialists, journalists and intellectuals. The minister, who arrived here on Friday on the second leg of a swing through three SAARC countries, handed over a letter of invitation from Pakistan's prime minister to his Nepalese counterpart to attend a SAARC summit in Islamabad early next year. He was received by King Gyanendra Friday evening and also held talks with Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, during which bilateral, socio-economic and regional issues were discussed, officials said. 'Terrorism is the common threat to all countries in the region and it can be controlled only if all the SAARC members work together,' Kasuri told Saturday's gathering. 'Pakistan will do everything to contribute to the realization of this objective through the implementation of the SAARC convention on suppression of terrorism,' he said. 'The current burning problem of cross-border terrorism between Pakistan and India could be resolved through the effective implementation of the SAARC Convention,' he said. India accuses Pakistan of fomenting an uprising in its sector of the disputed Himalayan region and of sponsoring attacks by Islamic militants across the de-facto border. Kasuri said he was confident of the success of the 12th SAARC summit scheduled in Islamabad for the first week of January, despite the fact India blames Pakistan for 'all wrongdoings in India, including excessive rains and droughts.' The summit was to have been held in Islamabad in January this year but India failed to confirm its attendance amid tensions with Pakistan. After Nepal he was to head for Sri Lanka, and once the UN General Assembly meeting in New York was over later this month, he would also visit India, Bhutan and the Maldives to deliver the formal invitations from Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali. Mr Kasuri also gave an assurance that Islamabad would do whatever possible to enhance trade turnover and improve economic cooperation between Pakistan and Nepal. He, however, emphasized the importance of restoring peace and security in Nepal so that trade, tourism and industrial development could be enhanced.-AFP


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