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It's time to reconcile with India: Zardari

India and Pak "must be much bolder, do much more" to achieve reconciliation to make S Asia "an economic condominium of open markets and open borders", says the PPP co-chairman.
IANS | By Arun Kumar, Washington
UPDATED ON MAY 30, 2008 12:41 PM IST

India and Pakistan "must be much bolder, do much more" to achieve reconciliation to make South Asia "an economic condominium of open markets and open borders", says Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.

"The outstanding issue of Kashmir has yet to be resolved, but it is an issue that must be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, including Pakistanis, Kashmiris and Indians, if real peace is to be established," he said in an interview published on Thursday.

"India and Pakistan were created out of the same cloth. We share the same language, the same food, and much of the same culture. We have had three wars and six decades of living on the brink," he told the Washington Times.

"We are now both nuclear powers who can guarantee 'mutually assured destruction'. We have made some progress, but we must be much bolder, do much more," said the husband of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto.

"South Asia must become an economic condominium of open markets and open borders. South Asia must become a common market of technology and communications," he said.

"That was my wife's goal and this is my goal, not just in the short-term but in the long term as well. We have tried it the other way. It didn't work. It is time for reconciliation," Zardari added.

The Pakistani leader said his wife's last book "Reconciliation" talked about how thinking conventionally, "within the box" is the way she phrased it, has led to little progress.

"It is time for new ideas. It is time for creativity. It is time for bold commitment. And it is time for honesty, both among people and between people. That is what I have tried to do in these pages. There has been enough pain. It is time for reconciliation," he quoted her as saying.

Asked how the new Pakistan government intended to deal with terrorism and insurgency that threaten both Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said military confrontation alone has been tried, and it has failed.

"It is now time to expand the battle to political engagement, economic and social reform, and the integration of our tribal areas into the mainstream of Pakistani society," he said.

"The government of Pakistan will never negotiate with terrorists, but we fully intend to engage tribal leaders who have been abandoned by the previous government and have been co-opted by extremists by intimation and coercion," Zardari said.

Accusing the US of viewing for much too long South Asia through very myopic, short-term glasses, the Pakistani leader said: "In the 1980s dictatorships were sustained in Pakistan under the rationale of the Cold War."

"In this young century, dictatorship has been sustained under the guise of a so-called war on terror. All that has been accomplished is to strengthen the extremists and turn the people of our nation away from the United States.

"This must be reversed by a sustained, long-term commitment to building an economically prosperous, viable and democratic Pakistan," he said.

Zardari said he believed the US Congress realises that the key to the strategic interests of the United States in South Asia is the stability of the region, and the key to the stability of the region is a prosperous and democratic Pakistan. The White House has also now come to share this view.

The US-Pakistan relationship must be more than a military marriage of convenience, he said. "It must be based on shared values and mutual respect."

"If the West commits to a sustained plan of economic and social development for our nation, helping us build an efficient economy, a school system that truly educates, and a health system that protects our people, the danger of terrorism and fanaticism within our borders will all but evaporate," Zardari said.

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