Zardari against backchannel talks with India: Kayani to US

A US cable reveals Zardari was against resumption of such talks with India.

Updated: Dec 02, 2010, 15:54 PM IST

Washington: Pakistan`s powerful Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani told a top American diplomat that his establishment wanted resumption of backchannel talks with India, but President Asif Ali Zardari is against it, according to a secret US cable leaked by WikiLeaks.

Kayani told this to the then US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson during a two-hour long meeting in October 2009, details of which are given in the secret cable.

The United States has termed the release of these secret documents as illegal and an act of crime.

During the meeting, Patterson asked Kayani about the likelihood for restarting the backchannel talks with India, noting that the US had received a good readout from former Foreign Minister Kasuri, who was enthusiastic about the appointment of former foreign secretary Riaz Khan as the back-channel negotiator.

ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha also attended the meeting.

"Kayani said that Ambassador should talk to Zardari about restarting the backchannel where it `left off`. He was not sure that Zardari was quite willing to wade into these political waters yet," the cable said.

"Kayani and Pasha both said that they wanted this channel to succeed, and Kayani expressed his confidence in Riaz Khan`s integrity and intelligence," the cable said.

"Kayani said the military was going to move into Waziristan in two-four weeks, although President Zardari had wanted him to delay.”

"He had met with PML-N Chief Minister of Punjab Shabaz Sharif and with PML-N opposition leader Chaudrey Nisar to obtain their support for the Waziristan operation, not for political reasons," the cable said.

"Kayani went over some of the discussion he had had with General McChrystal about counter-insurgency but said that the most important issue in Afghanistan was the perception that the US was winning. There was no chance for reintegration or reconciliation unless this took place," it said.

Another US cable written by Patterson notes that Zardari was personally in favour of improving Pakistan`s relations with India.

But efforts early in his tenure (including on opening trade between Indian and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) were overcome by the Mumbai terror attacks and India`s reaction to what it perceived as Pakistan`s complicity in them and by the Pakistan military`s lack of approval for such initiatives which Zardari can not take on his own.

"Zardari is conscious that he must not be perceived as reopening negotiations on Kashmir now if he wants to keep Pakistan`s military focused on the western campaigns – and not its institutional enemy, India," said the cable dated June 09, 2009.

PTI