Kashmir Not Part Of SAARC Agenda: Pak FM
3 January 2004
Islamabad: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri said Sunday Kashmir could not to be part of the agenda of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) because it was a 'bilateral issue' between India and Pakistan. 'Kashmir is a long- standing bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and according to the charter of the organization, issues of this nature could not be raised in the summit,' he told IRNA on the fringes of the SAARC summit. The three-day 13th SAARC Summit began on Sunday here with the participation of all seven member states - Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Formed in 1985, the tension between Pakistan and India has largely prevented the seven-member organisation to play an effective role. The SAARC Charter bars discussion of bilateral and contentious issues and decisions on vital issues are taken on the basis of consensus. Creation of a free trade zone in South Asia, poverty alleviation, preventing the financing of terrorism, and a charter for social development are high on agenda of the summit. 'Kashmir problem could be raised and discussed only in bilateral meetings between Pakistan and India,' he said, adding Islamabad hoped that New Delhi would respond positively for a 'composite dialogue' on the issue. He said that promotion of the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and improvement of their quality of life, economic growth, social and cultural development in the region were the main objectives of the organization. To a question he hoped Indian Premier Atal Behari Vajpayee would meet Pakistani leadership on the sidelines of SAARC summit and that there would be further development in the context of relations between the two countries. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been revived so far, he said, adding 'and bilateral talks would further mutual understanding'. Vajpayee arrived here Saturday to attend the summit. It is expected that he will hold bilateral talks with President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minster Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali during his stay in Islamabad. The Indian premier in recent remarks has said that result- oriented talks with President Musharraf are possible. He said this in an interview with PTV aired on Saturday. 'President Musharraf is a great leader of Pakistan and India is ready to hold dialogue to improve relations with Pakistan.' In reply to a question, the Indian prime minister said it takes time to arrive at some understanding and for this purpose a sustained dialogue is required. 'India never refused to talk about Kashmir.' He said though New Delhi sticks to their stand that Jammu and Kashmir is part of India but that it is ready for an open dialogue on Kashmir. There has not been a comprehensive dialogue on Kashmir and both the countries had been reiterating their stands, he added.