The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak pushes for peace and Kashmir talks

Islamabad, Aug. 11: Amid calls for peace, a prime ministerial luncheon and meetings between intellectuals of the two nations, Pakistan today underlined the need for talks to settle disputes with India and hoped the ongoing media conference would help create the proper environment.

But Kashmir remained the core issue.

“We are all for peace and resumption of talks with India as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said at the lunch he hosted for the Indian delegates to the conference organised by the South Asia Free Media Association.

“We want peace in the region and will do our best to facilitate any efforts in that direction,” he added, reiterating that Kashmir was the core issue between the neighbours and must be addressed whenever talks resume.

Earlier, foreign office spokesperson Masood Khan had set the reconciliatory tone by welcoming Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s message, which was read out at the opening session of the conference yesterday. “We appreciate the tone and tenor of the message and hope that India will move fast to resume dialogue with Pakistan,” he said.

Vajpayee, who had offered a hand of friendship to Pakistan in April, said cooperation rather than confrontation was the answer to the problems of development and poverty alleviation that plague the neighbours.

But Masood said such “interactions” like the conference could not “be a substitute for negotiations, which necessitate engagement of the two governments through a process of dialogue”.

They would be meaningless if there is no mechanism to engage the two governments in talks, he said at the press briefing and hoped the Indian delegates would persuade the BJP-led government in Delhi to come to the negotiating table.

Former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, who is part of the Indian delegation, underlined the importance of the conference. “We are here to convey (a) message of love and peace for Pakistan. We are here to tell the world that we (Indians and Pakistanis) are the same,” he said in an interview.

“The visit is part of large-scale efforts to end bitterness between the two countries and further the peace process,” he added, pointing out that friends could be changed but it was impossible to change neighbours.

“Our people need bread, jobs, and not arms,” he said. “It will be disastrous if the two countries fail to resolve their differences,” the Bihar leader added.

“I believe that the fate of the two countries may change beyond imagination if they become friends,” he said.

President Pervez Musharraf also stressed on peace while speaking at an international seminar on major powers and South Asia. A number of Indian delegates are attending the seminar organised by the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad.

“We desire peace in the region and will follow (the) path of negotiations,” Musharraf told participants at the seminar. He stressed that Pakistan would like to resolve all outstanding disputes with India, including Kashmir. “When we talk of disputes,” he said, “it does not exclude Kashmir.”

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