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India not a 'threat' to Pak: Zardari

world Updated: Oct 05, 2008 10:23 IST

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has admitted that India is not a threat to his country and described the militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir as terrorists, a statement made perhaps for the first time by a top Pakistani leader.

"India has never been a threat to Pakistan I, for one, and our democratic government is not scared of Indian influence abroad," Zardari told 'Wall Street Journal' in an interview.

He spoke of the militant groups operating in Kashmir as "terrorists," the paper said, noting that former President Pervez Musharraf would more likely have called them "freedom fighters."

Replying to a question, Zardari said he had no objection to the India-US nuclear cooperation pact so long as Pakistan is treated "at par."

"Why would we begrudge the largest democracy in the world getting friendly with one of the oldest democracy?" he said.

Asked whether he would consider a free-trade agreement with India, the paper said he responded with a "string of welcome, perhaps even historic, surprises."

While seeking better ties with New Delhi, he noted that "there is no other economic survival for nations like us. We have to trade with our neighbours first."

About Pakistan's economic crisis -- the central bank has about two months' worth of foreign currency reserves left to pay for the country's imports of oil and food -- Zardari said he looks to the world to "give me $ 100 billion."

The paper says he imagines Pakistani cement factories being constructed to provide for India's huge infrastructure needs, Pakistani textile mills meeting Indian demand for blue jeans, Pakistani ports being used to relieve the congestion at Indian ones.