Pak FM warns of elements that may try to scuttle peace process

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - 20:16

Islamabad: Describing his upcoming meeting
with his Indian counterpart S M Krishna as "a very important
step forward" in bilateral ties, Pakistan Foreign Minister
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, nevertheless, warned on Tuesday that both
sides would have to contend with elements that could try to
"scuttle" the peace process.

Qureshi, who will hold talks with External Affairs
Minister S M Krishna in the Pakistani capital on July 15,
hoped the trust deficit between the two sides would be bridged
during the parleys but cautioned against expecting "quick-fix"
solutions to outstanding issues.

The forthcoming meeting with Krishna would be "a very
important engagement and a very important step forward in our
bilateral relations," he told a news conference in the Foreign
Office here.
At the same time, Qureshi said the two countries would
have to be vigilant against elements opposed to the peace
process.

Asked about the challenges to normalising bilateral ties,
he said, "the challenges are that there can always be an
element that could try and scuttle the process."

Referring to the Mumbai attacks that occurred during his
last visit to India in November 2008, he said: "When we meet,
we will have to sit and resolve that we will not allow acts of
terrorism to impede the process. This process is a valuable
process and we should build it to a level that it becomes
irreversible."

"Trust deficit will be bridged by talks during which we
will discuss outstanding issues," Qureshi told a news
conference after his 25-minute telephonic conversation with
Krishna.

He acknowledged that the normalisation of bilateral ties
would not be an easy task.

"I will not create any false hopes, I am an optimist and
yet I am a realist. I recognise the challenges and I recognise
the difficulties. I recognise the trust deficit that exists.
It`s an uphill task. Don`t expect miracles overnight," he said
in response to a query on his expectations from the talks.

"But the good thing is today on both sides, we have
democracies and democracies believe in negotiations, talks and
parleys. And that`s a healthy sign," he added.

Qureshi said he and Krishna had "a good discussion and we
will build it from here, recognising the challenges,
recognising the fact that it isn`t going to be easy,
recognising the fact that there are no quick fixes but the
sincerity is there."

The Pakistan Foreign Minister evaded a question on
whether the two sides had come close to a solution to the
Siachen and Sir Creek issues during the earlier dialogue
process and said he would give his views when he sat at the
negotiating table.

Qureshi made it clear that the two sides were going into
the talks with an open mind and a positive approach without
having any false hopes.

Prior to the meeting between the Foreign Ministers, Home
Minister P Chidambaram will visit Islamabad on June 26 for a
conference of SAARC Interior Ministers.

He will be accompanied by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao,
who will meet her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir to
finalise modalities and the agenda for the talks between
Qureshi and Krishna.
Qureshi said he would also visit Delhi after his meeting
here with Krishna for the next round of talks.

He said he had begun consultations with the civil and
military leadership to forge national consensus on resolving
outstanding issues with India.

Qureshi yesterday met a group of former Pakistani Foreign
Ministers, Foreign Secretaries and ambassadors who served in
Delhi.

He also held a separate meeting with Pakistan`s Indus
Waters Commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah.

He said he would be seeking guidance from President Asif
Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on the
substantive issues.

Qureshi said he also consulted national security
institutions last night.

Sources told agency that Qureshi had yesterday gone to the
General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, where he held
consultations with army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI
chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

The sources also described Qureshi`s conversation with
Krishna as "very positive."

Qureshi evaded a direct reply to several questions on the
structure of the upcoming dialogue and only said that all
issues of concern to both sides would be on the table.

He indicated that among the issues of concern to Pakistan
were the unrest in Balochistan and differences over sharing of
river waters.

Qureshi said he was "presuming that both sides are
comfortable with the structure in place. There can always be
improvement but there is satisfaction. Both sides acknowledge
the fact that the structure in place has given us incremental
progress."

He added: "For example, water is a serious issue for
Pakistan. The composite dialogue includes the Wullar barrage
but that is suspended...The water problem is bigger than that.

"We have to seriously talk about water and we have a
mechanism for resolving issues in the Indus Waters Treaty that
both sides recognise," he said.

Replying to a question on terrorism, Qureshi said:
"You`ve got to recognise that terrorism is an issue that has
affected India and Pakistan. We are both victims, they have
suffered casualties and so have we suffered casualties.

"In my view, the best way of tackling this issue is
through mutual understanding and cooperation."

Though the two countries have a Joint Anti-Terror
Mechanism, Pakistan would have an "open mind" if India
proposed steps to strengthen it, he said.

Qureshi said the approach of Prime Ministers Manmohan
Singh and Gilani was "very productive" and their interaction
in Thimphu on the sidelines of the SAARC summit last month was
"frank, cordial and forward looking".

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - 20:16

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