Old Kashmir policy stands revived: FM5 May 2010
ISLAMABAD: It was Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's day in the National Assembly on Tuesday when he said Pakistan had returned to its 'historical' stand on Kashmir issue after 'wavering' by the previous regime and would fight all possible legal battles with India for water rights. In an absorbing speech on an opposition motion to discuss the present government's Kashmir policy, he rejected critics' fears Pakistan's position could be harmed in future peace talks with India after the two sides discarded the nomenclature of 'composite dialogue' last week and allegations it was not doing enough to prevent India from curtailing Pakistan's share of river waters guaranteed by a 1960 treaty. The minister said the term 'composite dialogue' was coined by India before the process began in 2004 while Pakistan had originally sought a 'comprehensive dialogue' and assured the house all eight points specified under the previous format would be on the table in future talks as well. In their meeting on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in Bhutan last week, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh agreed to resume the dialogue suspended after the 2008 Mumbai attacks for which the foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of the two countries chart a new format. 'On Kashmir, the viewpoint of this government is the same, … which has been historical and principled, that Pakistan is committed to find a just and peaceful resolution in accordance with UN resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people,' Mr Qureshi said. 'The present government has returned to that (old) position,' he added, describing position under the previous government of then military president Pervez Musharraf as 'wavering' for 7-8 years when he said reliance was put mainly on what he called 'bala bala (stealthy) back-channel diplomacy' without taking parliament into confidence. 'We are trying to recover from the damage done to Pakistan's case then,' he said, assuring the house that 'we will like to engage with India in a constructive and purposeful dialogue' and would also consult the Kashmiri leadership for which he said he had written to leaders of all resistance factions on the Indian side of the Line of Control in March to come here. Water Issue Mr Qureshi also narrated steps taken by Pakistan to ensure it gets its share of western rivers under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty including the previous government's 'correct decision' to go for a neutral expert over the Baglihar hydro-electric project over the river Chenab in Indian-held Kashmir and said the government had now decided to approach the International Court of Arbitration over India's Kishanganga hydro-electric project, also in Kashmir.