Gilani Says Pakistan, India Need Kashmir Accord For Peace

2 December 2009
Bloomberg
Paul Tighe

Islamabad: Pakistan and India will achieve peace only with an accord on the disputed territory of Kashmir, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said as India’s government said it won’t hold talks until the government in Islamabad tackles terrorism. Gilani said Pakistan wants to resume talks on improving relations, a five-year process interrupted after last November’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai that India blamed on a Pakistan-based group. “For the elimination of terrorism, regional cooperation is vital,” the official Associated Press of Pakistan cited Gilani as saying. Talks with Pakistan can’t be held until the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks are dealt with, Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said yesterday, state-run broadcaster Doordarshan reported. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, a divided Himalayan territory claimed in full by both countries. The peace process, begun in 2003, led to increased cultural, transport and sporting links between the nuclear-armed neighbors. The Indian-ruled portion, Jammu and Kashmir, is India’s only Muslim-majority state. Pakistan desires peaceful relations with its neighbor, APP cited Gilani as telling members of the Pakistani community in London yesterday at the start of a visit to the U.K. Troop Withdrawal India will withdraw a significant number of security personnel from Jammu and Kashmir, Chidambaram told Parliament yesterday, according to Doordarshan. He didn’t elaborate. Groups in Jammu and Kashmir have responded positively to an initiative by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government for “quiet talks” on the future of the state, Chidambaram said. While some organizations want self-determination for the region, “I do not think we should shy away from talking to any group,” he said. The “quiet diplomacy” will take place “far away from the glare of the media.” Singh visited Jammu and Kashmir in October, renewing a call for talks with Kashmiri groups seeking self- determination and underlining his government’s commitment to help the economic development of the region where insurgents have staged a 20-year fight against Indian rule. The All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of Kashmiri groups, wants India to pull its troops back from cities and end martial law. Armed Groups India accuses Pakistan of supporting armed extremists in Jammu and Kashmir, a charge denied by Pakistan, which says it offers only moral support to separatists. India and Pakistan account for four-fifths of South Asia’s $1.3 billion economy and economic progress in the region has suffered because of tensions between the nations. Pakistan takes only 4.8 percent of its imports from India, almost three times less than its biggest partner China, according to U.S. government data. The countries are members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, a group known as Saarc, which includes Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan. Saarc nations, where a quarter of the world’s population lives, contribute less than 2 percent to global commerce 24 years after the association was set up. Prosecution Demanded India says the so-called composite dialogue with Pakistan can’t resume until Pakistan upholds pledges to prevent terrorist activity on its territory. India has demanded that Pakistan prosecute members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group who it says carried out the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people. Pakistan acknowledged the raid was planned on its soil. An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan last month charged seven people, including Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a Lashkar commander, with involvement in the attacks. The group’s founder has been put under house arrest. Gilani, speaking in London, said Pakistan is taking steps against terrorism and has carried out a successful military operation to drive Taliban fighters from the Swat Valley in North West Frontier Province and is now engaged in an offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Terror Cost The military campaign against the Taliban is costing the government more than $8.5 billion a year, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has said. The International Monetary Fund in August agreed to increase a loan to Pakistan by $3.2 billion, after the country was forced to turn to the Washington-based lender for a $7.6 billion bailout in November 2008. The U.S. Senate on Sept. 24 voted to triple annual economic and social- development assistance to Pakistan to $1.5 billion for the next five years. Army operations against the Taliban in South Waziristan provoked retaliatory attacks and suicide bombings that have killed more than 300 people since mid-October in towns and cities, including Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. A suicide bomber blew himself up at a security checkpoint near a navy complex in the city yesterday. Two security guards were killed and 14 people were injured, APP reported, citing police. To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Tighe in Sydney at ptighe@bloomberg.net.