March 2006 News

Kashmir solution will draw friendship: FO

27 March 2006
The Daily Times

Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday welcomed a recent peace initiative by the Indian prime minister, but indicated that a friendship treaty was only possible after the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week offered a “treaty of peace, security and friendship” to Pakistan as a new step in a two-year dialogue aimed at burying a half-century of hostile relations. The Foreign Office on Monday welcomed Singh’s overtures but underlined that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute “would usher in an era of good neighbourly relations between the two countries”. “That environment would also be conducive to the conclusion of a treaty of friendship,” spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told a weekly news briefing. Aslam said Kashmir lies “at the heart” of issues between Pakistan and India. She said that the Kashmir issue could not be put on the back burner because its solution could improve relations between the two countries. Referring to Singh’s speech, Aslam said that in addition to general cordial sentiments, there were a number of positive and important elements in his speech. She said Singh had spoken about finding pragmatic, practical solutions to the Kashmir dispute. She said Singh had suggested that the two countries could work towards making the Line of Control irrelevant. The spokeswoman said that President Musharraf had stated on a number of occasions that the status quo could not be a solution to the dispute and suggested that the LoC be made irrelevant for Kashmiris. She said Pakistan favoured simplification of procedures for free movement of Kashmiris across the LoC. She said it was not realistic to de-link the Kashmir issue from negotiations to improve relations between the two countries. She said the ideas of a non-aggression pact or a friendship treaty had been suggested in the past by both sides. She denied news reports that the two countries may be close to an agreement on resolving their dispute over Siachen. Officials from the two countries will hold talks on Siachen in New Delhi in May, Aslam said. Replying to a question regarding the killing of Pakistanis in Spin Boldak in Afghanistan, the spokeswoman said, “Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with the Afghan government and has sought details about the incident.” She said good friendly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are imperative for peace and stability in the region. Aslam also said Pakistan would only reciprocate India’s grant to Pakistan last year of MFN status after India removed barriers to trade from Pakistan. Her comments came as senior Commerce Ministry officials from the two countries began three days of talks in Islamabad to discuss ways to boost trade.


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