‘Kashmir can bring Indo-Pak ties to square one’

Imran Khan has said the Kashmir matter should be set aside for future as the two countries work on confidence-building measures.

Islamabad: Noting that the Kashmir issue has
the potential of taking Indo-Pak relations back to "square
one", cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has said the
matter should be set aside for future as the two countries
work on confidence-building measures.

Khan also said that besides the Kashmir issue, any terror
activities in Kashmir or a 26/11 type attack has the potential
of taking the relations back to "square one".

It is the "only issue" that is stopping the two countries
from getting closer, he said.

"It`s a core issue because without Kashmir you will always
have a possibility of going back to square one no matter how
much confidence-building measures you have," Khan said in an
interview on a news channel.

"If something happens in Kashmir...maybe something happens
from within Kashmir in India, some sort of terrorist attack?
I`m scared that like Mumbai, certainly whatever happens comes
back to square one," he said, referring to the possibility of
another terror attack disrupting bilateral relations.

Responding to a question about President Zardari`s remarks
three years ago that the Kashmir issue be set aside for
resolution by a future generation while India and Pakistan
worked on CBMs, Khan said: "I certainly agree with that line
of thinking.

"I think that the more confidence we build with each
other, the more trade we have, the more trust we develop and
the moment militancy or intelligence agencies` roles disappear
and the more we solve our issues on the dialogue table, that`s
the only way forward". Though Zardari had said in an interview three years ago
that the Kashmir issue should be set aside for resolution in
the future, he subsequently made no reference to such an
approach after facing criticism from Kashmiri groups and
hardline elements.

Asked how he would try to resolve the Kashmir issue, Khan
replied: "Well, whatever the solution is, first of all, it
should not be enforced through militancy.

"So whatever policy we have, it should be political
dialogue and I also believe we should have other CBMs along
the way".

He said there should be greater trade, more linkages and
people-to-people contacts on both sides of Kashmir.

Khan said the two countries should deal with the Kashmir
issue in a "more civilised way" and suggested India could make
a start by "withdrawing its army from Kashmir" if it "has
confidence that there is no militancy coming from Pakistan".

Khan contended that the Kashmir issue hinges on the
"rights of the Kashmiri people" and they should play a key
role in finding a solution to the dispute.

Khan remarked that his opposition to all military
operations, including those within Pakistan, had led to some
people describing him as "pro-Taliban".

He said he had called for the withdrawal of Pakistani
soldiers from the restive tribal areas.
"The solution does not lie in military operations...,"
Khan said.

Responding to another question whether his Pakistan
Tehrik-e-Insaf party`s policies would be dictated by
anti-India leaders like Shireen Mazari, Khan said such matters
would be decided through dialogue within the party.

The party, as a whole, objects to military operations
everywhere, including Kashmir, he added.

"Any political party has all sorts of people, all sorts of
views come in...Shireen Mazari is a nationalist (but) Imran
Khan has never been anyone`s puppet ever," he said, adding
that he would not become the premier if he could not decide
his party`s policies.

On the Afghan issue, Khan said Pakistan`s perception of
the relations between India and Afghanistan were closely
linked to the evolution of India-Pakistan ties.

India`s relations with Afghanistan would not matter if
ties between New Delhi and Islamabad were "friendly" and based
on mutual trust, he said.

"But if it`s perceived (as hostile) as it is right now by
a military establishment which is basically controlling the
policy... they will always be scared of being squeezed from two
fronts," he said.

Asked about Pakistan`s policy of using Afghanistan for
strategic depth, he said: "I think this policy is wrong
specifically because they don`t understand the Afghan mindset.

"Afghans have never been controlled by anyone. They are
the most independent-minded people which is why they fought
every foreign occupation. Anyone who tries to control them
would fail".


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