Not interested in photo-ops

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, Abdul Basit

[stextbox id=”info”]Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, ABDUL BASIT talks to IFTIKHAR GEELANIabout the state of Indo-Pak relations and the road ahead.[/stextbox]

IG: Is there road ahead after Bhutan, where prime ministers of India and Pakistan and expected to meet?

AB: Post-Mumbai attacks, India decided to suspend composite dialogue process, which we thought was not appreciative. We did shake hands recently and except a meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh and a meeting of foreign secretaries; there has been no substantial engagement between the two countries. That is the current state of relations. We had given India a roadmap to resume bilateral composite dialogue (CD) process. Last September in New York we had proposed a meeting of officials, followed by ministers and then by a summit level meeting. We are no more interested in photo-ops and want concrete progress.

IG: You seem to indicate that Pakistan has crossed a threshold where you don’t want to talk to India for the sake of talks?

AB: We are not against meetings. We would like Indian foreign secretary to visit Pakistan and foreign minister also. But if we are meeting to reiterate our old traditional positions and leave everything out of dialogue table, we are back to square one. It does not create good ambience. If that is the intention then meeting is not going to serve any purpose. We want tangible progress in the meetings. That is why we had given a road map of meetings. We are of the view that photo sessions no more serve a purpose. We need to do more.

Further projecting Kashmir as terrorism is not acceptable to us. That is a legitimate struggle. You can put Pakistan on defensive but at the end Kashmir problem is there.

IG: India had been asking for action against Lashkar-e-Toiba?

AB: That is a banned organisation. They (India) claim Pakistan is running 42 camps inside its territory or (territory) controlled by it. We are telling them if you know, please tell us where are these camps? India keeps on saying, when we ask them details, they don’t come up with. We were told through media another Mumbai like attack was to take place. If you have information or intelligence, our request is to share it with us so that we can take action. Let me say, two countries should be cooperating with each other to pre-empt terrorist acts rather engaging in blame game.

We are experiencing heinous face of terrorism and our economy is suffering. We are able to focus on domestic issues and stabilization. But there are core issues as well. Terrorism is not the only issue between India and Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir, peace and security. India is heavily investing in its military. India has much responsibility in the region. Pakistan has come a long way. We are trying to reinvent ourselves. We are a democracy now.

IG: Pakistan has been insisting on resumption of Composite Dialogue process, which started in 1997. Has it served any purpose?

AB: Composite Dialogue process had succeeded in convergence of views on various issues. We signed prior notification of missiles, it helped us in ceasefire. We had CBMs on Kashmir. It created a congenial atmosphere as well. We had made enormous progress on Siachen and Sir Creek. These issues can be handled quickly.

IG: Recently you concluded strategic dialogue with the US. Americans, many believe, have ditched you at crucial times?

AB: US position has been erroneous in the past. There is shift now in American attitude. They are now focusing on long term relation. Terrorism alone would not stand. They have taken our position of long term partnership beyond security issues. If we address terrorism you have to take into account socio-economic development and root causes as well.

IG: Some of your leaders and even Hafiz Sayeed openly launches hate campaigns against India…

AB: I don’t hold brief for Hafiz Sayeed. We arrested him. Have you ever arrested Bal Thakerey for making hate speeches against Pakistan.


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