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December 12, 2013

No option but to normalise Pak-India ties: PM

World

WD
Web Desk
December 12, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said that his government was committed to improving relations with India, adding that the normalisation process must remain on track.
Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Dr. TCA Raghvan had an ‘introductory’ meeting with the prime minister here on Wednesday, in which Nawaz Sharif said we need to work towards setting aside the baggage of history, prevailing mistrust and lack of flexibility. “I am convinced that we have no option but to normalise the relations for the sake of peace and betterment of our peoples.”
The meeting was a major part of a peace initiative in which Pakistan decided to convey to India the ‘consensus desire’ of various shades of political leadership for moving forward on the path of normalisation of relations between the two countries.
The Indian high commissioner’s meeting with the prime minister carried conspicuous significance since it took place hours before the departure of prime minister’s brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to New Delhi where he will meet the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh besides having other engagements in the Indian Punjab and also visit the UP for inspection of power plants.
Prime Minister Nawaz’s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi is also accompanying the chief minister and it is understood that a message from Prime Minister Nawaz would be handed over to Dr. Singh. Leader of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI-F) and chairman parliament’s committee on Kashmir Maulana Fazlur Rehman is already in India while Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan visited New Delhi early this week.
Pakistan and India are actively working out a new mechanism of interaction for addressing sensitive issues pertaining to the security under the National Security Advisers (NSA) of the two countries.
Sartaj Aziz, NSA to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, proposed the mechanism to the Indian leadership when

he visited New Delhi last month and it is believed that now India is in agreement about the proposal. Highly-placed diplomatic sources told The News here on Wednesday that Pakistan is going to convey to India that both the countries should address each other’s concerns in a purposeful manner. “No particular issue can be discussed in isolation as the two countries are required to engage to sort out all outstanding issues,” would be the message to be conveyed to the Indians in the course of interaction in New Delhi later this week. It is unlikely that any breakthrough would be forthcoming in the meetings currently taking place between the leaders of the two countries but the interactions would greatly help in improving the ambiance, the sources maintained.
The sources revealed that Pakistan’s overtures and initiatives for peace with India are being received well across the globe. For the first time, the Indians are on the backfoot diplomatically, as important world capitals are not only appreciating Pakistan for its initiatives but are asking India to test Pakistan’s recent offers and desire for peace.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who also holds the portfolio of foreign affairs, has initiated the diplomatic offensive by starting meetings with the ambassadors and high commissioners posted in Islamabad. He hosted a lunch in the honour of some Western envoys and had an exclusive meeting with the Indian high commissioner Dr. TCA Raghvan on Wednesday.
Nawaz Sharif told his Indian interlocutor that Pakistan believes in friendly relationship with all its nieghbours, especially India. All issues with India have to be dealt with peacefully and diplomatically through dialogue based on parity. “We have no option but to live in peace in the interest of the people of Pakistan and India. Pakistan and India should institutionalise the mechanism of meetings between National Security Advisers of the two countries to discuss matters related to terrorism. It would help allay the concerns of the two sides,” he added.
The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the calm at the LoC, but added that existing mechanism of LoC meetings need to be strengthened. He said that the DGMOs of the two sides should meet so that such occurrences did not happen in future. “I believe that sincere and constructive measures need to be taken to reduce tension on LoC and to ensure that the ceasefire agreement of 2003 remains intact,” he added.
Prime Minister Nawaz told the Indian high commissioner that he had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York and Sartaj Aziz also met with External Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed in New Delhi recently. “We should continue to hold regular meetings and interactions at all levels as these will help towards normalising of the relations”.
Expressing his will to enhance trade relations with India, the PM said: “The second meeting of the Joint Business Council in New Delhi in October was useful. We look forward to further interactions between the two ministries of power and commerce to discuss ways and means of moving forward on trade matters”.
He said the sides should increase people-to-people contacts, including visits of pilgrims. “This is an important Confidence Building Measure,” the prime minster stressed. Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to prime minister on Foreign Affairs, was also present on the occasion.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif welcomed the Indian high commissioner on his new assignment in Pakistan and hoped that his tenure as high commissioner will be as successful as his previous stay as deputy high commissioner from 2003-2007.
Later, at a lunch hosted in honour of a group of ambassadors, the prime minister said Pakistan is keen to expand cooperation with all its friends the world over, especially in trade, investment, energy, infrastructure, agriculture and human resource development. There is an urgent need for us all to convert the huge reservoir of mutual goodwill into mutually-beneficial partnerships. “Pakistan is a country full of potential, but not yet really exploited. We are looking forward to working closely with the world in exploring and developing this potential and realising the opportunities.”
Commenting on the regional situation, Prime Minister Nawaz said that while the situation in Afghanistan is entering in a critical phase, Pakistan is engaged, and remains committed to supporting a peaceful and smooth transition in Afghanistan. “During my recent visit to Kabul, President Karzai and I had a most warm and friendly exchange of views on a whole range of issues. These included cooperation in facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of transition and reconciliation.”
Nawaz Sharif said we are determined to rid Pakistan of terrorism and extremism. “This menace is complex in nature and is rooted in the events of the past three decades, having global, regional and local dimensions. We believe that the best way to deal with these challenges is through national consensus, which we are generating through various forums, including the All Parties Conference and parliamentary resolutions,” the prime minister said.
Nawaz Sharif said we are aiming that Pakistan’s image is correctly and accurately portrayed before the international community. After having spent some time in this country, I am confident that you know Pakistan well. We count you now not only among Pakistan’s friends but its ambassadors too, the premier added.
Later Ambassador of Argentine to Pakistan and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Rodolfo Martin Saravia also addressed the gathering. In his address, he said: “We all are honoured to have been invited here and thank you for support extended to the diplomatic community. This event provides an opportunity to share experiences and exchange ideas. The peaceful transfer of power from one democratic set-up to another is an achievement for Pakistan. The diplomatic community feels comfortable in Pakistan and considers it as our second home.”
Ambassadors of Canada, Norway, Turkey, Brazil, Japan, the Holy See, Cuba, Switzerland and deputy chief of mission of USA and charge d’ affaires of Australia attended the luncheon.