The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Unfazed Pakistan replays peace tune

Nov. 25: Pakistan foreign minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said the top priority of the new government would be to normalise relations with India but added that “India will also have to play a role”.

“My top priority would be to improve and normalise ties with India and other neighbouring countries,” the foreign minister said in his first interview to the daily Dawn.

Kasuri expressed hope that India would respond positively to these sentiments. India “also has a role to play”, the minister said. “We want to improve relations with India and wish peace and prosperity for the people of India,” he said.

The minister maintained that Pakistan was sincere in its desire for peace with India. “We are prepared to go half way or may be even a step further in improving relations with India.” But these relations have to be based on the rule of law and mutual respect, he added.

Regarding the Kashmir dispute, Kasuri said: “We want principled peace with honour and justice.” He said “the desired objective of solution to the Kashmir dispute can only be achieved through what is acceptable to the Kashmiri people”.

The continuing tension between the two countries has had a negative impact on the social and economic development of the two South Asian neighbours, the foreign minister said. The unfortunate situation requires sincere efforts by the leaderships of the two countries to amicably resolve all outstanding issues, he added.

India, however, made it clear that normalisation of relations between the two sides could only take place when the ground reality changes with serious action from Islamabad to stop cross-border terrorism and destruction of its terror apparatus.

Officially, India did not react to the Pakistani foreign minister’s remarks. But, in private, South Block officials pointed out that resumption of dialogue between the two sides could only take place after Pakistan completely stops infiltration across the Line of Control and gives up its policy of compulsive hostility against India.

They also pointed out that, in the BBC’s Hard Talk programme today, India’s foreign minister Yashwant Sinha made it clear that Delhi would not return to the talks table unless there was a visible change in Islamabad’s policy towards Delhi.

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