June 2006 News

Kashmir Very Much The Core Issue For Pakistan: FO

12 June 2006
The News International

Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday reiterated its position on held Kashmir by reminding India that it considers Jammu and Kashmir as the core dispute between Islamabad and New Delhi. Last week former BJP minister for finance and external affairs Yashwant Sinha stated during a visit to Pakistan that there was no document to prove that Jammu and Kashmir was the core issue or dispute between the two countries. At present Sinha is the BJP spokesperson on foreign policy issues. This statement has caught many by surprise as it appeared to be a new line coming from a senior Indian politician. The BJP while in power had never used this argument when it started the ball rolling to bring in Jammu and Kashmir in the composite dialogue.'Jammu and Kashmir is the core dispute between India and Pakistan because of its gravity, its political implications and the implications it has for relations between the two countries. It is also fundamental to the rights of the people of Kashmir who are the sufferers,' a Foreign Office spokesperson told a weekly press briefing. Putting the record straight she added that one had only to look at the Simla Agreement in which there is a specific reference to Jammu and Kashmir in Article 6. This talks about a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir. 'Subsequently the Tashkent Agreement also talks about the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,' she added. The spokesperson said anyone who has studied history and followed the tensions between India and Pakistan could not escape the fact that Jammu and Kashmir was at the heart of these tensions. Replying to another query again related to Yashwant Sinha who disagreed with the option of bringing in the Kashmiris on the table when India and Pakistan hold talks, the spokesperson said, 'Our position is that the Kashmiris are part of the process and they should be able to sit across the table. Since this is not acceptable to India, we are comfortable with the Kashmiris being associated with the peace process through other means,' she said. 'For instance the Kashmir leaders on both sides of the LOC are interacting with each other. They are interacting with the governments of Pakistan and India and since there are three parties to the disputes, they all have to be on board to resolve it,' she said. Asked about Pakistan's response to Indian proposals to resolve the Kashmir issue, she said Pakistan has received the 'ideas' from New Delhi. 'Pakistan has proposed self-governance, demilitarisation and joint management,' she said adding these ideas found 'resonance' among the Kashmiris and the two sides can 'proceed further on the basis of these ideas'. Asked why Kashmir was not mentioned as a dispute in the joint statements issued by the two sides in the current round of talks, she acknowledged that the word 'dispute' was not being used because it was not agreeable to India. Kashmir being referred as an 'issue' also conveys something of a 'disagreement. We accept that, she said. Responding to a query regarding reports that the Gwadar deep seaport was in reality a military port for the use of China, the spokesperson brushed aside this assumption and said this kind of reports were part of disinformation aimed at creating misunderstandings. 'The Gwadar port is purely a commercial port developed commercially and it is open to all international countries. It is also open to the Pakistani media (to determine for themselves), she said. Pakistan and Germany will now have to work on a new procedure to get at the bottom of the death of Pakistani citizen Amir Cheema who, the German authorities say, committed suicide. Explaining this the spokesperson said the FIA had about 30 questions in this regard and it has been advised that according to the German procedure it will be Pakistan's Ministry of Law and Ministry of Interior who will be communicating with the German legal department. Regarding the four Pakistanis killed in Afghanistan, the spokesperson said they were employed by an Indian construction company. However, the Afghan government says they are Afghans because as a policy the Indians do not employ Pakistanis. APP adds: Responding to reports about the $150 million cut in annual US funding to Pakistan, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said the House had proposed an overall cut in foreign assistance, from $23.7 billion to $21.3 billion for 2007. She did not agree with a correspondent that the cut attributed to a shift in the US policy. She said that under the five-year $3 billion programme, the US is providing annually around $600 million, equally divided between Economic Support Fund (ESF) and Foreign Military Assistance (FMA) to Pakistan. The spokesperson said the cut proposed by the House of Representatives was yet to be considered by the Senate.


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