We must move towards resolving Kashmir: Aziz
21 January 2006
B. Muralidhar Reddy
Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said India and Pakistan must move beyond simple confidence-building measures to 'substantive dispute resolution' of the Kashmir issue to achieve 'sustainable peace' in South Asia. 'India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people must show courage, leadership, magnanimity, flexibility and a passion for peace in order to find a credible and lasting solution to the question of Jammu and Kashmir,' he told a news conference at the U.N. Headquarters in New York on Friday-Saturday. Mr. Aziz, now on a weeklong visit to the United States, spoke to the press after 'comprehensive' talks with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who hosted a luncheon for him. According to the official news agency, Associated Press of Pakistan, the two leaders covered a wide range of topics including relief assistance for victims of the October 8, 2005 earthquake, India-Pakistan relations, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. To queries about India-Pakistan ties, Mr. Aziz said Kashmir was the 'core' issue, which must be resolved to allow the two countries to move forward on other fronts. Violations Expressing concern over 'violations' of human rights in Kashmir, he said any solution to the issue must reflect the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people. 'Without that we do not feel we can find a sustainable solution.' Pakistan had proposed various initiatives including demilitarisation of Kashmir, self-governance and creation of an environment in which the Kashmiri population on both sides of the Line of Control could trade and interact freely. He hoped that the dialogue Pakistan started with India would move forward, and both sides and the Kashmiri people would work to find a solution. Once there was progress on that issue, the two sides would make progress in tandem on other matters including trade and investment. Pakistan wanted peace with all neighbours including India. It had made 'strenuous efforts' to engage in confidence- building measures and peace process. But the relations were 'mired in conflict.' At the core of 'our relationship is the issue of Jammu and Kashmir' and 'we are attempting and working towards finding a solution.' Mr. Aziz stressed the need for opening all five points along the LoC every day rather than once a week for the people on two sides to meet their families. 'We will also like to encourage trade between the two parts of Kashmir.' On the recent bombing in Bajaur by the U.S., he said it resulted in the deaths of 13 persons and whether 'high value targets' were present was under investigation. The Pakistani security forces found no tangible evidence of the presence of any particular group or individual. Pipeline project Asked whether his Government intended proceeding with the pipeline project with Iran regardless of whether Teheran was referred to the United Nations Security Council on the issue of its nuclear programme, Mr. Aziz said that with an economic growth rate that was second only to that of China last year, Pakistan focussed on energy security. To meet future needs, Pakistan was looking to import gas from a variety of sources. It was exploring the possibility of an under-sea gas pipeline from Qatar into Pakistan and on to India. It was also looking at a pipeline from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan into Pakistan and on to India.