We have taken bold steps to normalise ties with India: Pak

Pakistan said it has taken "bold and unprecedented" steps to improve ties with "vital neighbour" India and to resolve all bilateral disputes.

Updated: Sep 04, 2012, 16:34 PM IST

Islamabad: Ahead of Foreign Minister S M Krishna`s visit here, Pakistan Tuesday said it has taken "bold and unprecedented" steps to improve ties with "vital neighbour" India and to resolve all bilateral disputes, including the key issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

"As a democratic government, we have taken bold and unprecedented decisions. Granting the Most Favoured Nation status by Pakistan to India has injected a new momentum into the Pakistan-India normalisation process," Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said.

"This process should create a better relationship. And we believe that a better and deeper relationship will eventually lead us to ways and means to resolve all bilateral disputes, including the most important of all, the status of Jammu and Kashmir," she said.

Describing India as a "vital neighbour" for Pakistan, Khar said during a speech at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin that history would bear witness to the "level of effort exerted" by the current government in Islamabad to normalise relations between the two countries.

However, Khar said there is "only one eventual resolution" to the Kashmir problem, which has been "clearly articulated by the UN Security Council".

The Kashmiri right to self-determination, she contended, is an "agreed principle of international politics for over fifty years".

"We believe that a greater depth to the Pakistan-India relationship will help lead us to the resolution (of the Kashmir issue)," she said.

Khar`s remarks came four days ahead of her meeting in Islamabad with Krishna to review the last round of the talks process between the two countries.

Krishna will hold talks with Khar on September 8, and their talks will be preceded by a meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries on September 7.

The two ministers will also co-chair a meeting of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission.

The commission was revived in 2005 after a gap of 16 years and it held meetings in 2006 and 2007.

India and Pakistan resumed their peace process last year, after a gap of over two years in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that were blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The two countries have made considerable progress in the past year in normalising trade and commerce relations.

India recent allowed investments by Pakistani investors and Islamabad has decided in principle to give MFN-status to the neighbouring country by the beginning of next year.

During her speech, Khar said lasting peace would open new vistas of cooperation in South Asia.

Pakistan straddles South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia and "is destined to become a bridge between these regions", she said.

The people of Pakistan want peace within and outside the country and the central plank of Islamabad`s foreign policy has been a "region-first approach that prioritises our relationship with our immediate neighbours", she said.

However, she contended that ECO and SAARC were two regional organisations that had "not been able to deliver as expected because of ongoing conflicts".

The region is the "least economically integrated" areas of the world and it should take a cue from the European Union to "settle our disputes and put our region on the road to peace and prosperity", she said.

Pakistan`s strategic relationship "has been proven time and again" the friendship of the two countries is for "all aeons to come", she said.

Khar warned against any intervention to halt the nuclear programme of Iran, saying it would have serious implications.

She described Iran as an important country with "an important role to play in the region".

Pakistan wants the issues surrounding Iran`s nuclear programme to be resolved peacefully, she said.

"We cannot afford another conflict in our neighbourhood. There is too much at stake. Any intervention will have far-reaching implications".

Khar described Afghanistan as the "most important pillar of the regional approach adopted by" Pakistan?s foreign policy and said Pakistan is "fully committed to a stable Afghanistan, primarily in its own long-term interests".

She reiterated that "Kabul is the most important capital for Pakistan" as the situation in Afghanistan has a "direct bearing on the entire spectrum of public life in Pakistan".

The conflict in Afghanistan since the time of the Soviet occupation in 1979 has had a widespread fallout in Pakistan, she said.

"Today, a daily spate of death and destruction has been unleashed on both the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan by groups that use suicide bombings and other forms of violence for political ends. Furthermore, extremism has manifested itself across various strands of society," she said.

The Pakistani people are "sick and tired of this volatility and violence" that effects their life, Khar said.

Lessons from 30 years of "failed efforts for peace and consistent conflict" have made it clear that only an Afghan-led solution would work.

She added that "Afghanistan`s future is for Afghans to decide. Only an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-driven process of dialogue and reconciliation can produce a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

"The only role the international community, including Pakistan, can play is one of encouragement, support and facilitation," Khar said.

Pakistan is committed to support the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai and a "range of political forces" to pursue dialogue and reconciliation, she said.

To support reconciliation and dialogue, Pakistan has tried to "ensure an environment that restricts the space for those who would seek to ambush efforts for peace", Khar contended.

Pakistan has deployed nearly 150,000 troops and established over 900 check posts along the border with Afghanistan and a matching effort on the Afghan side would "dramatically improve our chances for collective success", she claimed.

"However, instead of coordinated and collective action, Pakistan and its citizens often have to suffer from unilateral military actions.

"These actions are inconsistent with international law, and they complicate the situation on the ground," she said in an apparent reference to US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt.

Khar said it is important for the world community to continue to support Afghanistan.

Khar is currently on a three-day official visit to Germany, which is Pakistan`s largest trading partner in Europe and its fifth largest source of investment.