`Pak-India talks to figure at strategic dialogue with US`

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday said the issue of stability and peace between Pakistan and India will be part of the upcoming US-Pakistan strategic dialogue.

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood
Qureshi on Thursday said the issue of stability and peace between
Pakistan and India will be part of the upcoming US-Pakistan
strategic dialogue as Islamabad wants Washington to address
its security-related concerns in the region.

Qureshi said the situation on Pakistan’s eastern
border with India has a "linkage" with the war on terror being
waged along the western frontier with Afghanistan, and the US
should help Pakistan achieve a "comfort level" that will allow
it to focus on combating extremism and militancy.
"When we talk of strategic stability in the region, we
cannot just focus on the western border. There is an eastern
border and you cannot totally overlook the situation on the
eastern border because there is a linkage," Qureshi told a
news briefing at the Foreign Office ahead of his trip to the
US on March 24 for the strategic dialogue.

"For the first time, you have seen Pakistan deploy
142,000 (troops) on the western border. That is a significant
shift and we have done it because a requirement was there.
That does not mean we are oblivious of the eastern border," he

"That does not mean we have attained the comfort level
we should have got to concentrate on the western border. I
think those issues need to be talked about," Qureshi added.

The US and the world community understand that
India-Pakistan relations are intrinsically linked to regional
harmony, peace and stability, he remarked.

"The lead role has to be done bilaterally but then
there again, Pakistan has been forthcoming, Pakistan is ready
to engage, Pakistan is not reluctant or hesitant.
The international community has a responsibility and
they should play a responsible role," Qureshi said, contending
India was not responding to efforts to normalise ties.

Pakistan also cannot be "oblivious to significant
increases in India’s defence budget" and New Delhi’s military
strategies like the "cold start doctrine", he said.

"It has been Pakistan’s clear policy that we don’t
want to be part of any arms race. We have confidence in our
security and ability to defend ourselves but we cannot be
oblivious when India talks of the cold start doctrine," he

At the same time, Qureshi remarked that Pakistan
should not "become obsessed with India" or "India-centric"
while forging ties with the US.

Asked why India and Pakistan had not been able to
normalise ties despite the recent Foreign Secretary-level
talks, Qureshi contended that this was due to domestic
political differences within India.

"At this time, I do not see clarity within India. Our
Foreign Secretary went there for talks on February 25 and the
feedback that he gave me shows clearly that there are internal
differences on whether to engage Pakistan or not," he said.

"One section is saying we should engage as this is
untenable and how long can we remain disengaged. Another
section is saying they should not engage till there is some
outcome in (the Pakistani probe into the Mumbai attacks)," he

Qureshi claimed India is "still living in the old cold
war mindset when the interests and views of world are

Pakistan wants meaningful and result-oriented talks
and will not engage in "talks for the sake of talks", he said.

Referring to the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue to be
held in Washington on March 24, Qureshi said Pakistan will
push for a deeper and more meaningful long-term engagement
covering ten areas, defence, counter-terrorism, strategic
stability and non-proliferation, economy, energy, education,
science and technology, agriculture, health and communications
and public diplomacy.

Underlining the need to rebuild trust with the Obama
administration, Qureshi said the issue will be a crucial part
of the talks in Washington.

"My message to the US is that the time has come to
walk the talk," he said.

"I believe our forthcoming dialogue will provide a
good opportunity to re-build confidence and trust on both
sides," the minister said.

Pakistan will also suggest that there should be an
annual dialogue between the Foreign Minister and US Secretary
of State and biannual talks between the Foreign Secretary and
the US Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The top Pakistani leadership, including President Asif
Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and army chief
Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, have held wide-ranging consultations
to prepare for the key dialogue with the US.