Fresh WikiLeaks cables have revealed that days after Pakistan’s former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was designated at his post, he told US Assistant Secretary of State Richard A Boucher that India-Pakistan relations could not be held hostage to the issue of Kashmir alone, The Hindu reported.
In a rare statement made in a closed-door meeting, Qureshi said there was a large constituency that believes in moving forward, but they were not particularly vocal. He said, “We must respect concerns of Kashmiris but we cannot be held hostage to one issue,” according to the fresh cables dated April 8, 2008, released by The Hindu, through WikiLeaks.
The Pakistan military and successive political establishments have time after time argued that Kashmir is the nucleus of the disputes between India and Pakistan, and that without a resolution of the dispute there can be no meaningful progress in ties.
However, after a few months in office, Qureshi’s tune had harmonised with the rest of the establishment, calling Kashmir a ‘core issue’, the report claimed. Meanwhile, sources in the government said that Pakistan has never changed its stand on Kashmir. The government sources said that for more than a decade, Pakistan never said Kashmir is not a core issue, the report added.
The US cable dated April 8, 2008 accessed by The Hindu, said Qureshi was responding to Boucher’s query on his views about Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations. The minister-designate told Boucher the considered view of his party was that foreign policy should be based on strategic interests, not populism. Qureshi termed the approach of Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister and chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, as aggressive and said: “Our direction may be the same, but our tone may be different. We will have to be sensitive to public opinion.”
The cable said: “But within the coalition, there are two important players on the extremism issue. One is Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan, who is liberal and ‘thinks like us’ but is a Pashtun who looks at things differently.
“The other is Nawaz Sharif, who sounds more aggressive and belligerent than the People’s Party, especially on the issue of Musharraf’s [who was President at that time] future. Sharif, said Qureshi, feels he is more in line with the popular mood.”
Musharraf on Kashmir
In a candid confession to the Americans in May 2008, President Pervez Musharraf conceded that successive governments had turned a “blind eye to Kashmir terror training camps” which have since been shut down.
A cable dated May 28, 2008 (155753: confidential), sent under the name of Ms Patterson on the meeting between Gen Musharraf and Senator Russ Feingold two days earlier, detailed their conversation centred on the extremist Kashmir groups.
In response to a question by Senator Feingold on whether he believed that Kashmir-based extremist groups were aligning themselves with al Qaeda, Gen. Musharraf admitted that the Government of Pakistan had turned a blind eye to indigenous Kashmiri groups in the past but were now firmly committed to a political dialogue with India.
Gen Musharraf in his meeting with Senator Feingold had contended that he considered himself a target of the “remnants of the Kashmir terror groups” whose terror camps on Pakistan soil were closed down.
“The time is ripe for resolution of the Kashmir issue, Musharraf concluded, asking that the US put more pressure on India to negotiate,” the cable said.
The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2011.