Islamabad: Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a top US official that Indo-Pak relations could not be held “hostage” to the Kashmir issue, a diplomatic cable unveiled by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks has revealed.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher, met with then Foreign Minister-designate Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the Pakistan People’s Party on March 28, 2008, according to an April 2008 cable published by the Dawn.
Noting he had been in India when PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari had issued a statement urging increased transit trade with India irrespective of progress on Kashmir, Boucher asked for Qureshi’s views on bilateral relations.
Qureshi said there was a large constituency on both sides of the border that believe in moving forward, but they were not particularly vocal.
“The answer to improved relations, said Qureshi, lay in increased confidence-building measures, people-to-people contacts and increased trade. He noted that since the rumours of his appointment, he had been getting calls from his Indian friends,” said the cable.
“We must respect the concerns of the Kashmiris, said Qureshi, but we cannot be held ‘hostage’ to one issue,” it added.
Boucher said that this was a positive sign, and that both sides needed a nudge to make progress.
Qureshi’s stand on the Kashmir issue, as revealed by WikiLeaks, is quite different from what the Pakistan leadership - both military and civilian - has said time and again, that Kashmir remains a ‘core issue’ between Pakistan and India, and that their bilateral ties may not improve until the Kashmir dispute gets resolved.