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Peace process on slow motion, says Aziz

The Pak premier emphasised the need to expedite the process and move towards dispute resolution.

india Updated: May 02, 2006 01:53 IST

The pace of Indo-Pak dialogue process was "not very good", and the two sides should speed it up and move towards "dispute resolution rather than dispute management", Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Monday.

"The dialogue process with India is underway. However, its pace is not very good and there is need to speed up this process," he said at the South Asia Journal conference organised by South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA).

"Both countries now should move towards dispute resolution rather than dispute management," he said, stressing that Kashmir remained "a core issue" and should be resolved according to the aspirations of Kashmiri people which should be acceptable to both India and Pakistan.

Pakistan was very open and wanted to move forward in resolution of Kashmir issue and has given proposals of demilitarisation and self-rule in Kashmir so that Kashmiri people can live in peace, he said.

He claimed that Pakistan was not interested in arms race but was forced to conduct nuclear explosion after India's atomic tests in 1998, adding that the country was gradually decreasing defence expenditure and enhancing allocations for improvement of social sector and poverty reduction.

He also said Pakistan was committed to fight against terror and had done more than any country to curb the menace of terror with a view to ensure peace the world over.

Noting that energy cooperation between South Asian countries was of vital importance, he said it was Pakistan which offered India to join the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project "which we call a peace pipeline and we unbundled it from all other issues."

Pakistan is also exploring gas pipeline from Turkmenistan and has offered India to join it, Aziz said adding, "we are also working with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to build energy grid for Pakistan."

On India-Pak trade, he said it was "restricted due to overall paradigm of our relations."

Non-tariff barriers are also a big impediment in enhancing bilateral trade, he said adding, "without resolving political issues we cannot move forward towards free trade with India."

On regional cooperation, he said though SAARC has great potential, it was not working very well.

He said there is need to devise a plan for energising it and strengthening its Secretariat so that it can play effective role in bringing the South Asian nations closer.

He said it can be an excellent platform for bridging gaps and meet the challenges of globalisation.

"We are trying to have even better relations with all our neighbours including India but at the same time enjoy brotherly and close relations with Iran, Afghanistan, Gulf states, Bangladesh and SAARC member countries.

"Our relations with China are multi-faceted which are expanding in all fields including economy, diplomacy, civil, political, defence and security. We are proud of our seamless relations with China," he said.

Asked about Islamabad's stance on conflict in Sri Lanka, Aziz said it was an internal issue and "Pakistan does not believe in interfering in other countries' internal affairs."

"But if Sri Lankan government sought our assistance we will think over it," he said, adding Pakistan hoped the issue would be resolved through dialogue.

First Published: May 01, 2006 18:03 IST