ISLAMABAD: Pakistan says it considers dialogue as the only ‘way forward’ to resolve outstanding disputes with India but will never compromise on its decades-old stance on the core issue of Kashmir.
“Dialogue is the only sensible way forward. We would like to engage with India in a constructive manner,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said here on Tuesday in a speech he delivered on the floor of the National Assembly. But the minister said Pakistan has now decided to revert back to its ‘historic’ stance on Kashmir. “Our point of view on Kashmir is the same.
We seek a solution based on the UN resolutions.” “We cannot be oblivious to Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. We will continue to extend moral, political and diplomatic support to the indigenous liberation struggle of Kashmiris,” he said, echoing the rhetoric popular among Pakistani political circles throughout the 80s and 90s. Qureshi said the ‘out of the box’ measures former president Pervez Musharraf proposed to resolve Kashmir have hurt Pakistan’s position on the issue and the present government is trying to ‘correct that mistake’.
“The present government has reverted back to the same principled stance,” Qureshi said in reference to the 1948 UN resolution that called for holding a plebiscite in Kashmir to decide whether the region would continue to live with India or join Pakistan. “Well, in our view the aspirations of Kashmiri people are also important …and we have to take care of that as well,” the minister said in a statement that came within a fortnight after Pakistan and India vowed to get engaged again.
Qureshi’s statement came a day after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly that the ‘times of wars are over’ and that Pakistan and India would now resolve their issues through dialogue. Gilani and his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh met in Bhutan last month to ‘renew’ talks between the two countries that were broken after a deadly attack in Mumbai back in November 2008. On Monday an Indian court convicted the only surviving gunman from the Mumbai assault that killed 164 people.
Mohammad Amir Ajmal Kasab belongs to a Pakistani town and was reportedly part of a group based in Punjab. Indian diplomatic authorities have been pressuring their Pakistani counterparts to move against groups who unleashed terror in Mumbai. But Qureshi said what Islamabad had done so far was ‘more than enough’ and New Delhi must not expect anything else. The minister added that India wants Pakistan to punish those who are supposedly behind the Mumbai attack but the executive in Pakistan cannot push courts to seek punishment.
He was referring to an under trial case against the alleged perpetrators of Mumbai attack in a Rawalpindi court. Qureshi termed the environment prevailing between Pakistan and India as ‘vitiated’ and said Pakistan wants to correct things through dialogue. The minister rejected criticism by some opposition members that Pakistan was not protecting its right on rivers flowing into the country from India. Qureshi said Islamabad has to move against Indian plans to construct hydropower projects on the rivers on which Pakistan has the right under the framework of a treaty two countries signed in 1960s.
“We will not compromise on this matter…but India is not responsible for Pakistan’s water problems,” the minister said referring to mismanagement in utilising water that flows into the country through Kashmir. “We will seek a solution through the political and diplomatic means and nor through fight,” the minister said. He told the house that Pakistan has invited Indian foreign minister to visit Islamabad on May 21. The assembly also witnessed token walkouts by MQM and PML-Q lawmakers over recent increase in prices of petroleum products.
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