We want peace with India, says Pak FM Qureshi

Shah Mahmoud Qureshi said India has contributed financially for Afghanistan`s reconstruction.

Updated: Feb 07, 2011, 16:24 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi has said that he would like his country to be at peace with India, and added that while he is looking forward to his visit to India, the trip must be meaningful and should address all outstanding issues constructively.

“I have suggested to them (India) to let us work out an agenda which addresses outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, because unless we address them, we cannot have lasting peace in the region,” Qureshi told a newspaper in an interview.

“We want peace and good neighbourly relations with India. My expectation is to make both countries realise that dialogue is the only way forward. And, our issues can only be resolved if we sit together and talk to each other and look for a peaceful, negotiated settlement. We should resume the composite dialogue, which was going on for the last four years but was broken after the Mumbai attacks,” he added.

‘Role in Afghanistan different for Pak, India’

Describing Afghanistan as a sovereign country that has a right to have bilateral relations with any nation that it chooses, Qureshi has said Islamabad cannot hold a grudge against Kabul for having ties with New Delhi, but added that a qualitative distinction needs to be made on contributions provided by both countries to that war-ravaged nation.

“India has contributed in financial terms to the advancement of Afghanistan`s reconstruction and I cannot stop that. But we have to draw a qualitative distinction between Pakistan`s role and India`s role in Afghanistan. Their role cannot be the same as Pakistan. As Pakistan, we feel that we have contributed to Afghanistan brothers much more than India,” Qureshi told the newspaper.

“We hosted Afghans during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989), we hosted the Mujahideen, we opened our doors to Afghanistan. And, we protected millions of refugees, and even today there are more than three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. We are contributing to Afghanistan`s reconstruction both in financial and human terms and we share a long border, common religion, common tribes and culture — but India does not,” he added.

He further said: “Pakistan has paid a huge price for Afghanistan in human and economic terms and Pakistan is their best bet for a solution. If things improve in Afghanistan, Pakistan will benefit from it but if things deteriorate in Afghanistan, Pakistan suffers while India is far away. We are facing suicide bombings and killings due to the Afghan war.”

Asked whether he desired a bigger role for Pakistan in Afghanistan, and Qureshi said: “We are not asking for any role. We did not play any role in the presidential and parliamentary elections. We are playing a role in facilitation and not telling them what to do.”

He also held out hope that the current political set-up in Afghanistan will be able to improve the situation in the country, once the US-led NATO forces start withdrawing from the region from July 2011.

“Yes, our view is that there is no military solution. It requires a political situation and we need political reconciliation in Afghanistan, and that is why Pakistan is supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation,” he said.

’Terrorism a global issue’

Accepting the existence of a trust deficit between India and Pakistan, Mahmoud Qureshi has said that both Islamabad and New Delhi need to be extremely cautious when levelling accusations, especially on the issue of terror attacks.

“It is easy to make the climate hostile, but it is difficult to build bridges,” he told the newspaper in an interview here.

“By disengaging, we cannot bridge the trust deficit. The only way to do this is to talk and understand each other. Even if we agree or disagree, it will still be progress and the trust will be built gradually,” he added.

Describing the terror attacks that took place in Mumbai between November 26 and 29, 2008, as both tragic and sad, Qureshi said: “The Government of Pakistan has condemned it. But it has happened. There are other incidents which are sad and should not have happened, like the attack on the Samjhauta Express where Pakistanis were killed. And now the RSS has claimed responsibility in India.”

“If we get stuck in Mumbai first or Samjhauta Express first, it will not solve the problem. We both are suffering from the problem of terrorism. Terrorism is not a Pakistan and Afghanistan specific issue; it is a regional and global issue. We cannot deal with it individually. We need a global strategy and regional approach to solve this problem. I suggest to India to evolve a common approach,” he added.