Pakistan asked India to revive CD: Salman Bashir



Islamabad: Pakistan has asked India to revive the stalled composite dialogue process as soon as possible because open-ended talks or engagement would not help the two countries to address their outstanding issues, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said on Friday.

"We told the Indian side very clearly that Pakistan believes it is necessary to resume the composite dialogue as soon as possible," Bashir said at the Wagha border after crossing over from India following talks yesterday with his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao.

"There will be no benefit from an open-ended dialogue. If we hold talks without any agenda or with an open agenda it will have some benefits but we cannot take any firms steps to move forward," he told reporters.

Pakistan believes that if the composite dialogue is "revived from where it was left off, it would be a big confidence-building and trust-building measure," Bashir said.

Describing his meetings with Rao and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna as "exploratory" in nature, Bashir said Pakistan had presented some proposal for more high-level meetings and a roadmap for taking forward the talks process.

"(The India side) did not reject or accept (this roadmap). Probably they need time," he added.

At the same time, he said, there is a need for India to "revisit" its position of focusing solely on terrorism and the 2008 Mumbai attacks in talks and blaming Pakistan for all its problems.

"This negative perception of Pakistan is not based on facts. We told them this very clearly. They should revisit facts as terrorism is a world and regional issue. Don’t blame everything on Pakistan," Bashir said.

India’s position showed that "dialogue is being held hostage by Mumbai" and demands for action against Lashker-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, he contended.

"We told them that relations between the two countries are being held hostage by such issues and this is not acceptable to common sense and wisdom. It is necessary to revisit their position which is not sustainable or tenable," Bashir said.

Bashir said his talks with Indian officials and media interactions had given him the impression that India believes that "Pakistan is the source of everything that is wrong" and "all problems are due to Pakistan".

"I told them to look at this with an open mind and that the ball is in your court. It is in your own interest and that of the region to revisit your position," he added.

The talks between Bashir and Rao marked the first official engagement between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai attacks, which New Delhi says were carried out by Pakistan-based terrorists.

India suspended the composite dialogue soon after the assault on its financial hub in November 2008.

Bashir said his "tentative engagement" in New Delhi should not be viewed in terms of failure or success.

Both sides had made a gesture to move forward and they must now try to "remove misperceptions", he said.

Bashir said both sides had agreed that their relationship had deteriorated for some months and it was "necessary to halt this regression".

They also agreed that they would have to take firm steps to ensure there is no more deterioration in ties, he said.

However, the Indian side had made it clear that the two countries "should adopt a gradual process and take small steps to restore confidence and trust" as there is a "lot of mistrust" in India, he said.

Bashir said he had taken up Pakistan's concerns on the Kashmir issue, sharing of river water, Siachen and Sir Creek and the problems of inadvertent border crossers during his meetings.

He said India should not created "obstacles" for the functioning of the Permanent Indus Waters Commission or "frustrate" attempts to resolve differences over waters under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.

"The Pakistani leadership and people want good relations with India on the basis of equality and respect.

The terms of engagement are sovereign equality and mutual respect. This is how it is, this is how it should be," he remarked.

At the same time, he made it clear that Pakistan was in "no hurry" to engage India in dialogue if the other side was unprepared for talks.

"If there is a wrong conception that Pakistan is desperate and wants everything started soon, it should be dropped," he said.

Asked if the two sides had agreed on holding more meetings, Bashir replied: "As far as the dates for the next engagement (are concerned), nothing has been decided as yet." In response to another question on India’s alleged involvement in fomenting unrest within Pakistan, Bashir said he had told the Indian side that Islamabad has "hard evidence" in this regard.

"We have all kinds of proof, including photographic evidence," he added.

"We told them about the problem of support for militancy and terror from their side using Afghan territory and said this is prejudicial to Pakistan’s security and not acceptable to us under any circumstances," the Foreign Secretary said.

PTI