Kashmir: Pakistan open to “innovative ideas”

21 May 2008
The Hindu

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at a joint press conference with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee after their talks on Wednesday that his government “was open to innovative ideas that can facilitate movement” on resolving Kashmir. But he refrained from responding to a question on where the civilian government stood on the retired General Musharraf’s proposals that Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani described in an interview as “half-baked.” For his part, Mr. Mukherjee, who called on General Musharraf and Mr. Gilani on Wednesday morning, said that in all his meetings with the Pakistani leadership over the last two days, he found “a strong willingness and desire on the Pakistani side to move ahead and work toward a full normalisation” of bilateral ties. Mr. Mukherjee said the composite dialogue process was based on “three pillars” that had underwritten all the developments of the last few years: an atmosphere free of violence and terrorism; a willingness to discuss and proceed ahead on resolving all issues of concern to both sides and efforts to build normal co-operative bilateral relationship He said he had conveyed the message that on these aspects India was “ready and willing to co-operate fully” with Pakistan. “A stable and prosperous Pakistan and India is our mutual interest and good bilateral relations are to our advantage and betterment of both our countries,” Mr. Mukherjee said. According to an official, during his discussions with Mr. Mukherjee, General Musharraf noted the positive contribution to improvement of relations by the composite dialogue process, and said there was a need to sustain and consolidate it. But he pointed that there was a need “to move from conflict management to conflict resolution” through more confidence building measures, settlement of outstanding disputes, economic and commercial cooperation and people-to-people contacts. The release said General Musharraf also emphasised the need for an early and durable settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, and stressed the need for associating the Kashmiri people in the dialogue process. He called for addressing the Siachen and Sir Creek issues. Mr. Gilani also emphasised to Mr. Mukherjee the need to resolve all outstanding issues, including the “core” issue of Kashmir, according to a statement from his office after the meeting. After their review of the eight-subject composite dialogue process, Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Qureshi announced that the two sides were ready to begin a fifth round in the second week of July. But before that, the two sides have also decided to call a meeting of the joint anti-terror mechanism set up last year. “We have decided that terrorism, which is a menace, we have to tackle jointly. A joint mechanism is available and by activating that, we can move forward to ensure that such incidents [of terrorism] do not impede the peace process,” Mr. Qureshi said. The India-Pakistan joint commission, which deals with co-operation in education, science and technology, and trade among other issues, is to meet next month.