`Indo-Pak must resolve core issue to boost peace`

India and Pakistan will have to resolve the "core issue" of Kashmir according to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people if they want to give a boost to the peace process.

Last Updated: Feb 12, 2011, 23:31 PM IST

Islamabad: India and Pakistan will have
to resolve the "core issue" of Kashmir according to the
aspirations of the Kashmiri people if they want to give a
boost to the peace process that is set to be resumed after an
interregnum of over two years, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir
said on Saturday.

Referring to recent public protests in Jammu and
Kashmir, Bashir said that "unless this core issue is resolved
satisfactorily in accordance with the aspirations of our
Kashmiri brothers and sisters, I don`t see prospects in terms
of a self-propelling peace process".

The upcoming talks to be held ahead of the Pakistani
Foreign Minister`s visit to New Delhi in July will have to
"take cognisance of what has happened in the past in dialogue
with India...and the actual ground situation" in Jammu and
Kashmir, Bashir said, while addressing a briefing organised by
the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Pakistan.

There had been a "resurfacing of the uprising of
Kashmiri youth, women and civil society" that was being
"increasingly acknowledged by the international community and
this cannot be wished away", he claimed.

"That has given urgency to dealing with this core
issue," he added.

At the same time, the two sides will have to focus on
progress made in the past on the Kashmir issue, including
confidence-building measures for cross-Line of Control travel
and trade, Bashir said in response to questions.

"I don?t think we should jettison all the good work
that was done by predecessors over 60 years, we should also
not be lost totally in the archives," he said.

"We need to approach these things with a great degree
of clarity. We should also have clarity in what is doable and
not doable and what timeframe is doable," the top diplomat

Asked about former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood
Kasuri`s remarks that the two countries were close to a
settlement on Kashmir during the military regime of Pervez
Musharraf, Bashir appeared to distance himself from such
claims and said discussions at that time were held on the back
channel alone.

"There could be good discussions on the back channel,
well intentioned, but they never acquired any status if they
are never discussed the way it normally happens officially,"
he said.

Following the decision at the meeting of the Foreign
Secretaries in Thimphu to resume the stalled dialogue,
Pakistan will approach the parleys with "an open and
constructive mind" with a view to dealing with as many issues
as possible, he said.

The peace process is "work in progress", he said.

"We are just resuming the process but hopefully
beginning with a new spirit," he added. Asked about the joint statement issued after the
recent meeting in Thimphu that referred to the Mumbai attacks
and made no mention of Pakistan`s concerns on the Samjhauta
Express bombing and the insurgency in Balochistan, Bashir said
this did not mean that Islamabad could not raise these issues
with New Delhi.

"It is in Pakistan`s interest to have under the rubric
of counter-terrorism a special focus on the Mumbai attacks. It
does not preclude or exclude anything else, he said.

Terrorism is "a much wider issue than Mumbai" and is
not germaine to Pakistan, he added.

"We have nothing to hide. If at all we want to really
expose the reality behind terrorism, whether it is in
Afghanistan, Pakistan or other countries," he said.

Referring to the situation in Afghanistan, Bashir said
he had told his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao that the
"worst thing that can happen to Afghanistan and this region is
if India-Pakistan rivalry is superimposed on the already very
complex situation there".

He indicated Pakistan was open to the prospect of a
"dialogue or partnership" on the issue of Afghanistan.

However, all of Afghanistan`s neighbours and the
international community must respect the "sovereignty,
political independence and unity and territorial integrity of
Afghanistan" as well as the "principle of non-interference and
non-intervention in the affairs of Afghanistan", he said.

"No formula (for addressing the situation in
Afghanistan) will be successful unless these principles are
adhered to in good faith," he said.

Pakistan has "serious concerns over the deteriorating
security situation in Afghanistan" and a "legitimate interest"
in the neighbouring country`s stability and peace, he added.

The peace process in Afghanistan, including those
initiated by President Hamid Karzai, would be successful if
the Afghan people take ownership of them, Bashir said.

Bashir described as a "positive sign" the decision to
resume the dialogue process with India, promising to play the
role of a "game changer". However, he advocated lots of
patience in dealing with difficult and complex issues
confronting the two countries.

The decision to resume the Indo-Pak dialogue "is a
positive sign", the top diplomat said.

"We are dealing with difficult and complex issues...
Lots of patience and determination is required," he said.

"We will play the role of a game-changer," Bashir
The Rao-Bashir meeting in Thimphu on Sunday had come
six months after the failed round of talks between External
Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart
Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad.

The composite dialogue between the two sides was put
on hold after 10 Pakistani terrorists carried out coordinated
attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, killing 166 people. Before
entering into talks with Pakistan again, India wanted the
perpetrators of the attack to be speedily brought to justice.