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Hard seed inside Aziz cherry

New Delhi, Nov. 24: 'No cherry picking' was Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's advice to those in India who think progress could be made on relatively less intractable issues with Islamabad, leaving Kashmir for a later date.

'Cherry picking may not be the best way. You have to move everything in tandem. If you put Kashmir on the backburner, we will not get sustainable peace,' Aziz declared.

He packaged his country in an amazingly positive context testing credulity ' describing it as 'an anchor of stability in the region' and as 'a moderate and enlightened state'. But he did not budge from the traditional Pakistani position.

The only whiff of fresh air was his echoing Manmohan Singh's sentiments that the two countries ought to think 'out of the box' on Kashmir and that normalisation of ties was a 'process'.

Pakistan's clear message to India, however, was that nothing would change if Kashmir was not resolved: India would neither get MFN (most favoured nation) status nor any outbound transit routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia; and Saarc would continue to be hostage to India-Pakistan relations.

Aziz also thumbed his nose at India saying that if Delhi did not support the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline thinking that it was a 'slam dunk' (a shot thrust down the basket ' a term used in basketball) by Islamabad, Pakistan would go ahead on its own with a smaller pipeline. He wanted India to support the pipeline as a standalone confidence-building measure.

He said: 'The trust deficit between Pakistan and India has to be reduced.'

Aziz talked tantalisingly of the promise of a peaceful South Asia but his road map to get there was high on motherhood-and-apple pie and low on specifics. His sprinkling of Americanese (cherry picking, slam dunk, trust deficit) may turn out to be a useful foil to the belligerence of General Pervez Musharraf. However, despite the easy-on-the-ear language, he essentially said nothing different from Musharraf.

Only a 'credible and sustainable' solution to the Kashmir issue, he claimed, would allow the realisation of the full potential of Indo-Pak relations. He did not define what might be considered 'credible'.

However, he listed the steps that needed to be taken on Kashmir as follows: understanding each other's position better; recognising the aspirations of the Kashmiri people; viewing them as legitimate and acknowledging that they have a role to play in resolving the issue.

The road map for getting to a Kashmir solution, he claimed, required leadership, magnanimity, sensitivity to all the stakeholders, a sense of trust and a recognition that 'we owe it to our future generations to resolve the Kashmir issue'.

Aziz held that Musharraf's proposal on Kashmir showed 'a desire to think out of the box'. and recommended that India do the same to start a public debate.

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