The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak olive branch to new power in Delhi

Islamabad, May 13: Soon after the BJP conceded defeat, Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri today expressed confidence that the new Indian government would press ahead with the peace process between the two countries.

“We look forward to seriously and closely engaging with the next government in India to promote the peace process as well as settlement of disputes including Jammu and Kashmir,” Kasuri said in Islamabad.

The minister said a road map for the peace process, including confidence-building measures and a dialogue on Kashmir, are already in place and is supported by the people and political parties of both countries.

Speaking during a news conference in Islamabad, Kasuri said South Asian nations had to adhere to the spirit of Saarc to realise their potential.

“We must collectively endeavour to promote greater inter-regional cooperation for comprehensive and integrated development of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole,” Kasuri said.

“Pakistan and India must, therefore, lead the efforts for overcoming the challenges of under-development, poverty and addressing the socio-economic conditions of the people in South Asia.”

The foreign minister said Pakistan looked forward to working closely with the Indian government in promoting this objective.

Leading Pakistani politicians and analysts did not foresee any drastic changes in India’s foreign policy, especially towards Pakistan, after the BJP’s defeat and the likely formation of a Congress-led government at the centre. “I don’t think there will be any logjam in carrying forward the dialogue which the BJP government had initiated with Pakistan,” Mushahid Hussain, a Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) party Senator, said.

However, he was apprehensive of the pace of progress as the new government would have to focus on priorities outlined in its election manifesto.

Opposition Senator Raza Rabbani called the result of the Indian elections as a good omen which would lead to a peaceful transfer of power in New Delhi.

“I wish Pakistan could also experience such a peaceful and democratic transfer of power,” Rabbani said, referring to the alleged manipulation of results by Pakistan’s military-dominated establishment after every election in the country.

Rabbani, who is deputy secretary-general of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and leader of the Opposition in the Pakistani Senate, said only a truly democratic government elected in a free, fair and transparent manner in Pakistan could ensure a lasting dialogue with India.

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