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Pak for trade to thaw ties with India

Pakistan's foreign minister says open to ‘different’ approach on resolving Kashmir, but not to put the issue on backburner.

world Updated: Apr 08, 2008 23:17 IST

Pakistan’s new government has ruled out putting the Kashmir issue on the backburner but said it will not shy away from taking a "different" approach on the problem by using trade with India as means to move from "conflict management to conflict resolution".

"The Kashmir issue is on the agenda in the composite dialogue. It's one of the top issues after peace and security and stability. It will remain so," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said.

"On the other hand, we feel that there are areas where we need to move on to our mutual benefit and advantage. Areas like trade," the Minister said.

Noting that bilateral trade through official channels was worth over a billion dollars and there was also "informal" trade between the two countries, Qureshi told Dawn News channel that India and Pakistan should use this as a means for resolving conflicts.

"So let's call a spade a spade, and if enhanced trade can be used as an important confidence-building to create a more enabling environment for our movement from conflict management to conflict resolution, we should not shy away from that," he said in an interview.

Asked if such an approach meant putting the Kashmir issue aside for a while, Qureshi, a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, replied, "No, there is no question of putting the Kashmir issue on the backburner. What we plan to do is we have been approaching this problem from a particular angle. Let's try a different approach.

"(We're) not forgetting Kashmir. How can we forget Kashmir? Kashmir is important for us. It's a very emotive issue within Pakistan. We will not forget it, we cannot forget it."

Though Asif Ali Zardari, Chairman of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, had said in a recent interview with an Indian TV channel that the Kashmir issue should be set aside for resolution by future generations, Qureshi claimed his party leader had been "misquoted".

Zardari's comments were widely criticised by hardliners in Pakistan and Kashmir and the PPP has subsequently distanced itself from the remarks.

Noting that the Kashmir problem "certainly is old", he said, "The approach is going to be new but in line with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan."

Qureshi said Pakistan wants regional stability and peace and "a greater understanding" between the two countries.

"We are neighbours, there are many areas where we can work in harmony, where we can cooperate with each other and benefit this region and our people," he said.

Replying to a question about his "goals" for India-Pakistan relations, he said South Asia had suffered because of the tense relation between the two countries people of the subcontinent deserve a better quality of life.

"The goals are very clear. The goals are we want to see peace and stability (and) increased economic activity. We feel that South Asia, which is an important area, has suffered because of our tense relation and because of hostilities in the past."

The new government "thinks that the people of Pakistan and people of the subcontinent deserve a better quality of life. There is poverty and hunger here and we have to address these issues."

Cordial and friendly relations between the "two very important players and neighbours" would also have a "positive impact" on the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Qureshi said.