Pakistan wants amicable settlement of Kashmir issue
12 February 2007
The Daily Times
Islamabad: Pakistan wants an amicable and peaceful settlement of all outstanding issues with India, including the Kashmir dispute, Minister of State for Information Tariq Azim said here on Monday. Speaking at the two-day Rotary South Asian Goodwill Summit-2007, Azim told the audience that the peace process initiated by Pakistan and India had developed momentum. We are proceeding with the composite dialogue process, which has led to reduction of tension. The time has now come to move from dispute management to dispute resolution, he added. Azim said the Kashmir dispute remained at the heart of Indo-Pak relations and a durable solution to the issue should be acceptable to the Kashmiris, Pakistan and India. He said that President General Pervez Musharraf had suggested several bold ideas for discussion and has proposed an out-of-the-box solution to the issue, but all parties concerned should show courage, determination and flexibility to resolve the dispute. The minister said that Pakistan and India were important countries in the region and peace between the two countries was vital for the prosperity and welfare of the people of South Asia. Pakistan does not seek regional hegemony nor will we accept it from any other country. We seek peace, which can only be achieved through strength and not weakness. Our defence posture is guided by the doctrine of minimum credible deterrence. We do not wish to enter into a conventional or strategic arms race with any country, he said, adding that Pakistan had offered a strategic restraint regime to India to prevent an arms race. We remain concerned, however, about the induction of new weapon systems into the region such as anti-ballistic missiles. We are also apprehensive that selective availability of civilian nuclear technology will enable an increase in quantities of fissile material for nuclear warheads in the region. In such a situation, we would need to take measures to ensure the capability and credibility of our deterrence, he said. Azim said that other social issues such as prisoners languishing in jails need careful appraisal. He said that most of Pakistani prisoners in India had been arrested on petty charges like overstaying their visas, but they were awarded heavy punishments and tortured in jail. He said that India released 97 Pakistani prisoners in September 2005, but 53 of them lost their mental balance, adding that 9 out of 25 prisoners freed in December 2006 also had mental illness. We have proposed a committee of senior retired judges to visit jails in our respective countries to help resolve this humanitarian issue, he said. Azim said that Pakistans bilateral visa regime had enabled a large number of Indians to visit Pakistan, adding that the Pakistan High Commission in India issued more than 100,000 visas in 2006.