Pakistan Says Dialogue Minus Kashmir Fruitless19 January 2011
The News International
Islamabad: Weeks before Pakistan and India meet in Bhutan next month, Islamabad has sent a clear message to New Delhi that Kashmir is still an outstanding issue between the two, and no amount of dialogue and meetings could improve relations unless the status of the disputed state comes under discussion. While Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir winds up discussions with the civil and military establishment ahead of his expected meeting with his Indian counterpart in Thimpu at the sidelines of a Saarc meeting, it would only be if India is ready to discuss “all outstanding issues” that a meeting at the Foreign Minister’s level could be possible in Delhi in the coming months. The dialogue, which had come to a halt following the Mumbai attacks, was further stalled when a common agenda for future talks could not be agreed upon in Islamabad. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi highlighted this point during a joint press conference with the visiting Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov at the Foreign Office Wednesday. “Pakistan wants to have productive and constructive dialogue with India to resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir. There is growing realisation in India that the movement in Jammu and Kashmir is “indigenous” and it should be resolved through political means”, Qureshi told a questioner. Mladenov and Qureshi said that their countries are supportive of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, which strived to bring normalcy in the land locked state, but this process should be led by the Afghans themselves. Bulgaria and Pakistan made this statement at a time when all neighbours including ‘not immediate neighbours’ are trying to secure their ‘strategic’ interests in that country. Qureshi pointed to the hype in bilateral relations with Afghanistan where the rhetoric from Kabul is no longer being targeted at Pakistan. To a query, he replied, “Pakistan and Afghanistan are developing their relations at all levels and there has been a qualitative change at military and political levels during the past few years,” he said. The FM said Pakistan is geared up to train the Afghan National Army and police, as the relations between the two countries have improved in the recent past. Bulgaria is one of those European countries, which has strongly defended Pakistan in the EU for trade concessions leading to improvement in its economy. Mladenov said the world community must take collective stand against radicalism. There should be religious harmony all over the world to fight these elements. On Thursday both countries sign an agreement to promote economic ties and expand bilateral trade and investment, while linkages between their universities will also be established. They announced that they have decided to expand and strengthen their bilateral relations in various fields including defence, economy, trade and culture. Bulgaria has offered assistance in generating coal energy to help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis. Qureshi said both countries have decided to expand political consultations and the next round will be held later this year.