April 2006 News

India should resolve, not manage, Kashmir conflict, says Riaz

29 April 2006
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

Washington DC: Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan said on Friday that Pakistan wants “some kind of a settlement” of Kashmir and it wishes to “raise the comfort level” of the Kashmiri people, but India will have to move towards conflict resolution instead of simply “living” with the problem and trying to just “manage,” not resolve it. The foreign secretary, who finished two days of talks with American officials, marking the start of a dialogue over the new strategic relationship the two countries wish to establish, was addressing Pakistani journalists at the Pakistan embassy. In answer to a question, he said negotiations with India were proceeding on two levels, through the composite dialogue and via the “back channel.” While he did not elaborate on the latter, he spoke in some detail about the former. He also pointed out that a relative degree of normalcy now prevails between the two countries, which was important for the region as it was for India and Pakistan. As in 2002, when India amassed its forces on Pakistan’s borders, Pakistan remains wedded to de-escalation and avoidance of conflict. It wants a reduction in tension, which is not only Pakistan’s but India’s need as well, as much as it is that of the region. India and Pakistan are talking, he said, and that is the important thing. The composite dialogue is made up of eight subjects, including Kashmir. Steps have also been taken towards nuclear risk reduction. As for a settlement of the Kashmir issue, a number of ideas have been exchanged, “so let us see where they take us.” When a reporter pointed out that to date India had either ignored or rejected all “out of the box” thinking that Pakistan had come up with, the foreign secretary replied, “But the world does not dismiss those things; it takes note of them.” Khan said his talks with his US interlocutors mark the start of the dialogue between the two countries for a strategic relationship. He did not disagree with the observation that the strategic relationship, as such, had so far not been established, what has begun was merely a move in that direction. The two-day talks were part of the structured dialogue that President Bush initiated in Islamabad, Khan explained, which only shows the level of cooperation existing between the two countries and the depth of their relationship, which, he added, is good, sound and robust. He expressed satisfaction with the “quality” of the relationship that the two allies have formed. This relationship, he stressed, is important for peace and security in the region. The focus of US- Pakistan strategic relationship is on energy, education, science and technology, trade and economic development. Both sides have already identified coordinators for these areas, who would meet in two months’ time. He said Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns would visit Pakistan for the next round of talks, but he gave no date. There are other ideas of strengthening and broadening the relationship, he added, one being “reconstruction opportunity zones.” Discussions on concluding a bilateral investment treaty, he stated, are well in hand. Pakistan’s revamped order for F16 aircraft, some old, some new, is also being processed and will be submitted for congressional approval shortly. Asked about the controversial India-US nuclear cooperation treaty, Khan replied that Pakistan has its “apprehensions” and remains opposed to an arms race in South Asia. However, it would not want the strategic balance in the region to be disturbed, nor would it permit its security to be undermined or jeopardised. Pakistan would take all steps it considers necessary to ensure that its security concerns are met. He said Pakistan wants its deterrent capacity to remain credible. On the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, he said Pakistan’s position is clear. The United States, he noted, has its own views on the issue, but he would not like to go into any hypothetical discussion as to what Pakistan would do in the event of such and such development. On Iran, the foreign secretary said, Pakistan was opposed to the use of force. Reuters adds Khan said that Pakistan would honour sanctions on Iran if adopted by the UN Security Council “but they could do more harm than good and it is too soon for this kind of action”. In an interview with Reuters, he said the Bush administration again turned down Islamabad’s request for a nuclear energy deal like the one it agreed to with India but his country would continue cooperating in this area with China. Khan said Pakistan believed Iran must abide by international nuclear obligations, but the world must “exhaust all (diplomatic) possibilities” before imposing sanctions that could provoke “undesirable consequences,” such as Iran leaving the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. If the security council did impose sanctions, “they are binding on all members of the UN, so we’ll have to respect” them, Khan said, but “there is no military solution”.


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