Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pakistan asks US to help bridge gulf with India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has urged the United States to nudge India to address contentious issues for bridging the trust deficit instead of looking at the distrust solely from the prism of terrorism.

“We want the US to encourage India to take steps for improving the human rights situation in Kashmir, moving forward on Siachen and Sir Creek and agreeing to arbitration on the Kishanganga hydropower project,” a senior diplomat told Dawn on Tuesday.

The message has been conveyed by the Pakistani leadership to the Obama administration through diplomatic channels as Pakistan and India move towards the phased process worked out by their foreign ministers early this month for building trust and confidence before revival of peace talks suspended in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“Our two countries do need to build mutual trust and confidence. It is, therefore, necessary that we engage each other with sincerity of purpose with a view to settling our differences and disputes and achieving peace and prosperity in the region,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said, adding that Pakistan looked forward to a meaningful engagement with India for freeing bilateral relations from disputes.

India has always denied entertaining US pressure in its ties with Pakistan, but analysts believe that the Feb 25 foreign secretaries-level talks in Delhi and meetings between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh in Washington and Bhutan had US support. Discussions on rebuilding trust will begin with a meeting between interior ministers of the two countries on June 26, on the sidelines of the Saarc home ministers’ conference. The same day foreign secretaries will meet in Islamabad. The foreign ministers-level dialogue will be held on July 15.

The interior ministers are expected to discuss anti-terrorism cooperation, according to diplomatic sources. The foreign secretaries will do spadework for the foreign ministers’ meeting and discuss confidence-building measures on Kashmir, including improvement in the human rights situation in the occupied region.

Pakistan wants India to end the exercise of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Kashmir and release all political prisoners.

“It is a key for both of us to first agree on the cause of trust deficit before we find ways to deal with it,” the diplomat said. He warned that India’s tendency to see terrorism as the only cause of distrust could complicate matters. “It is a self-delusional approach.”

The diplomat said the realisation in India that confrontation with Pakistan was hurting its own development was a positive sign and could expedite the normalisation of bilateral relations.