Kashmir issue should not obstruct talks, says Natwar
28 May 2004
NEW DELHI: India's new foreign minister has said he wants a multi-speed dialogue with Pakistan where major disputes such as Kashmir do not hold up progress on other matters, according to an interview published Friday. Natwar Singh, in his first major interview since being sworn in as foreign minister of the left-leaning United Progressive Alliance this week, said he wanted to revamp ties with Pakistan along with lines of New Delhi's relationship with Beijing. 'Pakistan is close to China and so is India. So why don't we follow the same example? We're saying don't forget Kashmir (but) keep it aside for faster progress on other issues,' he told The Hindustan Times newspaper. Singh said India's differences with China about their border over which they fought a brief war in 1962 had not impeded 'relations in other areas.' But he said he was not asking Islamabad to put the issue of Kashmir, where an uprising against Indian rule has raged since 1989, on a backburner. 'But if you make Kashmir the only agenda, then it will be difficult. Let's have progress on other issues as we discuss Kashmir through a high- level mechanism of the kind we have with China.' The border war between India and China left their relations in shreds. But growing trade between the giant economies in the 1990s led to warming ties and they have played down their territorial dispute to focus on improving commercial and other relations. In June, India and China appointed special envoys to solve the border issue. Singh said India and Pakistan needed to get over their obsession with Kashmir, which both countries hold in part but claim in full. 'If our diplomats spend 30 per cent of their time on Kashmir, their (Pakistani) diplomats spend 85 per cent. This must stop,' he said. The new communist-backed Congress coalition led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh government has begun work on a 'definite roadmap' to build relations with Islamabad and other nations in South Asia, he said. 'Our priority is to cultivate good relations, reduce tensions and increase areas of agreement with our neighbours.'