No Need For New Architecture For Engagement, Says Qureshi

No Need For New Architecture For Engagement, Says Qureshi

30 April 2010
The Hindu
Anita Joshua

Islamabad: Upbeat after the Premier-level meeting between India and Pakistan at Thimphu, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday said there was no need for a new architecture for engagement but maintained that there were no issues between the two countries over nomenclature. Echoing a stance taken by Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to questions on whether the re-engagement would mean resumption of the “composite dialogue,” Mr. Qureshi said: “Call it what you may, it is the spirit of dialogue that is important. Both countries agree that dialogue is the only sensible way forward.” Briefing journalists here on his return from Thimphu, the Minister was also categorical in denying that dialogue had been resumed under pressure from a third party. “Yes, others can advise; not compel. They can nudge you; they cannot force you.” Evidently surprised by the Indian response to Pakistan's persistent calls for dialogue, Mr. Qureshi did not hide the fact that it was beyond expectation. As media sought to point out discrepancies in his post-summit briefing and that of Ms. Rao's, he urged journalists not to nit-pick and vitiate the atmosphere. However, to a pointed question on whether the dialogue would start from scratch, he shot back: “Why should we go back to Class I when we have already cleared some ground.” With the Foreign Ministers and secretaries of the two countries being tasked to chalk out the road map for further engagement, Mr. Qureshi said he planned to contact his counterpart after the ongoing session of the Indian Parliament adjourns on May 7. All issues that have been discussed in the past would be on the table in the future also, he said, identifying Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, water, trade and people-to-people contact as Pakistan's concerns. As for India's concern about terrorism, his counter was that it was a global concern and would be best addressed collectively. According to Mr. Qureshi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's approach was very positive. “He wants India-Pakistan ties to improve to such an extent that the two premiers can be on first name basis and feel comfortable enough to call each other at any point to discuss any subject.” Asked if Pakistan feared that Dr. Singh may have conceded more ground than the Indian polity and his own party would allow – as was the case after his effort to break the ice in Sharm-el-Sheikh – Mr. Qureshi maintained that this time the Congress party appeared to be on board. On the water front and the charges of India violating the Indus Waters Treaty – leaving Pakistan high and dry – and referring to demands for reworking the agreement, Mr. Qureshi asserted: “It would be dangerous to suggest that the treaty should be worked out afresh.' About India ‘stealing' Pakistan's water, he lamented the tendency to exaggerate and pass the buck. Reeling out statistics, he sought to draw attention to the poor water management by Pakistan. On the specific question of India building dams on the “Indian side of Kashmir,” he said: “We need to see if they are as per the treaty or in violation of it. We are not only bound by the treaty but also its annexure. If there is a violation, we will definitely take it up.'


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