New Delhi: Ranting on its old stand, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said, after bilateral talks on Thursday, that Kashmir was the core issue between India and Pakistan relations, but accepted that terror needed to be combated.
Predictably, Bashir said that Pakistan too was a victim of terror and that it was their priority as much as India’s to combat the menace.
Adopting a cautious stance, Pakistan emphasised that the two countries needed to pick the pieces and that it desired good ties with India. At the onset, he described the talks as useful and felt that the two sides took stock of the situation and issues that needed to be addressed.
“We condemn terror attacks on India, be it Pune or Mumbai and sympathise with the families of the victims as we ourselves have been the worst sufferers in the hands of terrorism. But it is absolutely wrong to link Pakistan with terror attacks on India. Fighting terror is our top most priority,” he said, adding that “Pakistan is a victim of 100s of Mumbais.”
Bashir said that the Indian side had laid a lot of emphasis on terror and that this emphasis was welcome as it was a pressing priority. He admitted that elements of terror had proliferated over the past few years and were posing a challenge to the entire region and the world.
“Pakistan is making all efforts to fight terror and will ensure that its territory is not used by terror elements against Pakistan or any other country. This clearly is in our own national interest.”
As expected, the Pakistan Foreign Secretary blamed all terrorist activities to “non-state actors’, who had “no respect for borders” or “common ideology”. “Their blight needs to be obliterated,” Bashir said addressing India’s main concerns.
While putting forth strongly the Pakistan point, Bashir said that it had done everything in the aftermath of the 26/11 incident, including nabbing suspects and putting them on trial.
On Hafiz Saeed
Dismissing India’s proofs on Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed, Salman Bashir said that what India had provided was a sheet that was more literature than evidence, but later made amends by saying that when he used the word “literature” he didn’t mean to be dismissive about the issue.
“On basis of the evidence provided, we have frozen the assets of Hafiz Saeed and had put him under preventive detention. But his defence counsel challenged his detention in court, which found the evidence inadequate and thus freed him.”
On the question that the new anti-terror laws in Pakistan permitted arrests of people who incited terror, the Foreign Secretary accepted that Pakistan would weigh the issue and use the ATA instrument as it deems fit.
“The documents that India handed over to his country were more of literature than evidence and Hafiz Sayeed was freed by the courts as no allegations against him could be established.”
Need for dialogue
Agreeing that relations with India have taken a hit lately, Bashir said that “Pakistan intends to restore good ties with India and welcomes India’s focus on terror, but it is unrealistic and we feel even counter-productive to link the talks with 26/11 attacks alone.” But he admitted that the frank, honest and open talks had helped the two sides gain a clearer perspective of things, as they stand today.
He told the media that he and his counterpart had exchanged suggestions and recommendations about how to proceed from this point. Bashir also praised Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh as man with vision and courage, who is keen to move forward. “We too are willing to turn a new chapter,” he said, adding, “but this needs to be done as two sovereigns equally and mutually.”
Bashir reiterated its stand that there was a need for the resumption of the composite dialogue process that had been stalled post the Mumbai attacks in November 2008. He said that Pakistan took cognisance of the fact that a huge gap had emerged between the two countries and it needed to be bridged and the trust deficit needed to be reversed.
But he added again that the relations between the countries should not be held hostage to terror alone or just one incident. He felt that as the both the nations were nuclear powers, it laid on them a special responsibility to improve ties.
Countering the Indian claim of having discussed J&K only briefly, Bashir said that “Kashmir dominated the talks and Pakistan has expressed concern over the violation of Human Rights in the Valley.” He emphasized that Kashmir was an international issue that needed to be resolved to improve ties between the two countries.
On the water sharing problem, Pakistan felt that the Indus Water Treaty needed to be followed in letter and spirit and all projects under it needed to be reviewed. Describing the talks as broad based Bashir said that other bilateral matters like Sir Creek and Siachen were also discussed, but what was needed was political will because these issues were “solvable” and the neighbours had earlier come close to resolving them.
The Pakistan Foreign Secretary while raising the issue of India’s involvement in activities that were against Pakistani interests, surprisingly refrained from mentioning Balochistan specifically, which had become the eye of the storm after Sharm-el-Sheikh.
When accosted about giving specific details about such activities, Salamn Bashir merely said that they had evidence about the same. Interestingly, while India handed three dossiers to Pakistan today, the Islamic nation failed to provide or hand over even a scrap of evidence against India to his counterpart.