‘Pakistan, India must get Kashmir out of their way’

3 September 2008
The Daily Times

Islamabad: It is in the mutual interest of Pakistan and India that the Kashmir issue be solved and “we must get it out of our way,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif has said. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, the former prime minister said other issues could be taken up simultaneously, rather than waiting for the Kashmir issue to be resolved first. Nawaz said the new trade policy which was aimed at ‘breaking bread’ with India and exchanging commodities short in supply on either side was “like a dream come true”. He said his government could take credit for the first state visit yb any Indian PM to Pakistan. “AB Vajpayee’s 1999 visit was a landmark in our relations… We discussed all key issues with great seriousness,” he said. When asked what the Pakistan People’s Party-PML split meant for relations between the two countries, he said his party would not be ‘behind the PPP’ but would “lead the PPP for better relations and confidence between our two countries.” He expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir. “Whenever a situation like this develops in Kashmir, it does affect, whether we admit or not, the relationship of our two countries,” Nawaz said. When asked whether he would visit India to engage with the Indian leadership, he said he said he would be ‘very happy’ to play such a role even though he holds no political office. Nawaz said the PPP’s 1996-97 election campaign was based on ‘India-bashing’, while the PML-N campaigned for Pakistan-India friendship. Terrorism: The former premier said he had been ‘most disturbed’ by the 9-11 attacks in the US and the 7-7 London bombings. He stressed the need to develop an effective policy to counter terrorism through parliament, saying “a policy that comes from parliament will effectively deal with the problem”. He did not rule out dialogue with militant groups. When asked about the possibility of a regional front against terror, Nawaz said, “There has to be a meeting of minds — with the West, within South Asia and between Pakistan and India... We must discuss it across the table.” Nawaz said a meeting of minds with India was a “noble cause needing implementation in letter and spirit”. When asked whether he would work with PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari to ensure the Kargil incident was not repeated, Nawaz said, “Anytime, anytime.” He expressed his disappointment at Zardari’s failure to honour his commitment to restore the dismissed judges. “He (Zardari) wriggled out, not once but thrice,” Nawaz said. However, he reiterated that the PML-N was committed not to destabilise the government. “We will never destabilise their government or bring a motion of no-confidence,” Nawaz said.