Days ahead of a likely meeting in Tehran between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, former Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the Hindustan Times that the ISI is on board and supports the dialogue between the two countries.
"The days of fighting wars are over. The ISI and the army are part of the government and they are regularly consulted on the India-Pakistan dialogue. Everyone is on board, including the opposition," Gilani said in a telephonic interview.
Gilani - who had to demit office in June this year, after being disqualified for contempt by the Pakistan Supreme Court - has had several rounds of meetings with Singh, to bridge the trust deficit that set in after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.
Referring to his meetings with Singh in Sharmal Sheikh, Thimpu, New York and in Maldives, Gilani said, "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an honourable man and has the conviction to normalise ties. I took the initiative and met him and told him that poverty stricken nations like ours should focus on development and solve core issues. I also told him that if as neighbours we don't talk, after the Mumbai attacks, then the terrorists will be the only beneficiary."
Reiterating that confidence building measures between India and Pakistan were the only way forward, Gilani, who led the peace process till his removal by the court, said, "Manmohan Singh is a genuine person and he wanted us to discuss all core issues including Sir Creek, Siachen, terrorism and Kashmir. We were working on all issues and between us, we had reduced the trust deficit to a level where the two countries can now walk the talk."
Pointing to the fact that the two countries were still engaging at the highest levels, he said that Manmohan Singh's meeting with President Zardari in Iran would only "enhance the relationship."
Asked if the dialogue process had suffered a setback after his removal as the prime minister, as Manmohan had referred to him as a 'man of peace' after their last meeting in Maldives in November last year, Gilani said, "In Pakistan, I'm also referred to as a man in a crisis but the dialogue will stay on track as it's the same government with the same President (Zardari). The dialogue now has a level of trust and consistency."
The former prime minister parried a question of why Pakistan was not providing voice samples of terrorists arrested for the Mumbai attack, if the ISI, was on board.
"The best person to answer that question would be the interior minister," Gilani said.