Pakistan 'cautiously optimistic' about resumption of dialogue

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 14, 2015 17:40 IST

Pakistan is cautiously optimistic about the resumption of dialogue with India, which will have to tackle issues such as the Siachen and Sir Creek boundary disputes on which progress was made in the past, the neighbouring country's national security adviser Sartaj Aziz has said.

Aziz, however, rejected India's contention that Pakistan has not done enough to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and ruled out action against Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, blamed by New Delhi for masterminding the assault on India's financial hub in 2008.

There has been speculation about the resumption of the bilateral peace process since Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Friday to wish the Pakistani team good luck for the cricket World Cup. Modi also announced that foreign secretary S Jaishankar would soon visit all SAARC countries.

Reacting to Modi's phone call to Sharif, Aziz said: "I am cautiously optimistic now that visit has been resumed, obviously there will be discussion on the agenda, scope of the dialogue, modalities and the timeline. Once the dialogue process starts it gathers its own momentum."

He described PM Modi's phone call as "a good start in sort of breaking the ice but whether it will lead to actual resumption of meaningful dialogue, that remains to be seen". Much will depend on the talks between the foreign secretaries, he said in an interview with the Rising Kashmir newspaper.

Aziz, who is Pakistan's de facto foreign minister since Sharif has not appointed anyone to the post since he came to power in 2013, said Pakistan expects India to make a "serious resumption of dialogue".

"It has to be composite and comprehensive dialogue. Modalities, interaction and timeline (are a) must. There are issues like Sir Creek and Siachen on which progress has been made. Kashmir is going to take little longer but we should go beyond CBMs," he said.

Aziz ruled out action against Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed, saying he wasn't an accused in the Mumbai attacks case. "He is not an accused in the case. We had arrested him initially but court has released him, as there was no evidence. We have taken action against his organization by freezing the assets," he said.

He claimed the Pakistan government's assessments indicated that "90% of (JuD's) work is welfare activities…But they should not provide cover to any terrorist activity. So we are watching (and) monitoring closely whether these groups are involved in such activity."

Aziz contended "persuasion" by the US and other world powers had led to India's decision to resume contacts with Pakistan. He added that "may be some internal dynamics of Kashmir played some role" in the decision.

India called off talks between the foreign secretaries of the two sides in August last year after Pakistan's envoy to India, Abdul Basit, ignored a warning from New Delhi about meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders days ahead of the parleys. The suspension of contacts was followed by a surge violations of the truce along the Line of Control by Pakistan and fierce exchanges of fire between troops.

On putting UN resolutions on back burner, Aziz said, "I don't think we can say that now. Because if we see an alternative that is better only then we can provide concessions/ relaxations vis-a-vis UN resolutions as these resolutions are international commitment to people of Kashmir. Once there are alternatives then we can talk".

Aziz acknowledged that Pakistan had hardened its stand on several issues, including Kashmir, after the suspension of talks because the peace process "has not moved". He added: "There is tension on borders…You can't just ignore it."

He said Pakistan could no longer say that it wouldn't insist on the UN resolutions of Kashmir. He added that former president Pervez Musharraf's four-point formula for resolving the Kashmir issue too may no longer be relevant.

"…if we see an alternative that is better only then we can provide concessions (and) relaxations vis-a-vis UN Resolutions…Once there are alternatives then we can talk. President Musharraf made lot of unilateral concessions, what did he get in return," he said.

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