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Ex-Indo-Pak ministers launch initiative to help solve issues

world Updated: Apr 17, 2010 13:12 IST

Seven former ministers from India and Pakistan, including Jaswant Singh and Khurshid M Kasuri, have launched a new initiative to find solutions to issues like Kashmir and water-sharing through "collective wisdom".

The former ministers will meet informally in India and Pakistan once or twice a year to discuss key issues related to bilateral relations and pool their experience and knowledge to help civil society find solutions to the problems, said former Foreign Minister Kasuri.

Kasuri hosted the first meeting of the group at his residence in Lahore yesterday.

It was attended by former External Affairs Ministers Jaswant Singh -- currently in Pakistan to promote his book on
Muhammad Ali Jinnah -- and K Natwar Singh and ex-Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.

From the Pakistani side, the meeting was attended by ex-ministers Sartaj Aziz, Abdul Sattar and Gohar Ayub Khan.

Addressing a news conference after the meeting, Kasuri said there are forces in Pakistan and India that play their
part to derail the bilateral peace process whenever the two countries move closer to the solution of their differences.

The group also discussed the 2008 Mumbai attacks and their repercussions on India-Pakistan ties.

"It's the trust deficit that is the biggest obstacle between the two countries," Kasuri said.

Kasuri said all the former ministers, who attended the meeting, participated in the bilateral peace process in the
past and played a role in bringing Pakistan and India closer.

The purpose of the meeting was to employ the "collective wisdom" of the former ministers to make an effort to resolve outstanding issues, he said.

The former ministers had an in-depth exchange of views in order to improve each other's understanding of outstanding issues and obstacles involved.

"We discussed the issues of water and Kashmir as well as all issues pending between the two countries with our former counterparts while they (Indian delegation) apprised us about their point of view on terrorism and all other issues," Kasuri said.

"The former ministers of India will tell their people about our point of view on water, Kashmir and other issues,
while we will do the same regarding their thinking on terrorism and other issues," he added.