The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak lays ground for talks

Islamabad, May 5: Pakistan today stepped up efforts to prepare the domestic audience for eventual talks with India by saying that the “ice has melted” and that its diplomatic isolation has ended.

The signals came from several flanks. Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said efforts were under way to create a congenial atmosphere for talks to begin.

His foreign minister, Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, said Pakistan was no longer “isolated diplomatically” because of its stand of safeguarding its national interests.

He added that Islamabad had had to face many foreign policy challenges since the September 11 terror attacks, but it had overcome these successfully. Its adversaries had failed to destabilise it or isolate it abroad, Kasuri added.

President Pervez Musharraf, in an interview to a local television channel, said Pakistan could work for a no-war pact with India, mutual reduction of troops and de-nuclearisation of South Asia if the Kashmir issue was resolved.

Jamali held talks with all political parties at his house late tonight to evolve a consensus on the course to be followed. No formal announcement was made after the talks, but a briefing is likely tomorrow.

Speaking to the media earlier, the Prime Minister said all issues would be settled with India on the negotiating table. He said a committee had begun work to evolve consensus on how to approach the task and that it would come up with a draft agreeable to all sides by May 15.

The Pakistan foreign office said India had responded “positively” to Jamali’s invitation to Atal Bihari Vajpayee to visit the country for talks, but gave no details.

Foreign office spokesman Aziz Ahmad Khan said Islamabad has “always called for a composite dialogue, on all issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.” This did not mean that only Kashmir should be discussed, he clarified.

Khan said Pakistan was ready to eliminate its nuclear arsenal if India did likewise.

Replying to a question, the spokesman said: “Our position has been that we were forced into the situation because of Indian nuclear ambitions.”

Khan said earlier foreign secretary-level talks had identified eight areas on which to start talks and these included the Kashmir issue. He said Pakistan wished to respond positively to India’s gestures.

Addressing a brainstorming session on ‘Imperatives of peace in South Asia’, Kasuri said India’s offer to normalise ties was proof that disputes could not be solved through force. Hence the need for a purposeful dialogue.

Amid speculation that US pressure is behind the peace overtures, Kasuri said “friendly countries” were involved, but denied that “external pressure” had been brought to bear on Islamabad.

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