ISLAMABAD – Welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nod to resume peace talks, Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday conceded that outcome of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to New Delhi was beyond Islamabad’s expectations.
Addressing a press conference, he said that both the sides have agreed to carry forward bilateral talks in the light of Lahore Declaration, as it is a good starting point, clearly indicating that format of composite dialogue designed by the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf would be restructured.
Sartaj Aziz said foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India would meet hopefully in September to revisit format of the eight-point composite dialogue for future bilateral agenda.
He said both the leaders agreed dialogue was the right way to move forward and that the head of states and foreign secretaries should meet each other soon on mutually convenient dates.
“The composite dialogue started in 1998 and covers eight main issues facing Pakistan and India. But so much time has passed and many incidents have occurred; it is the job of the foreign secretaries to decide on how to move forward,” the Adviser explained.
He said the two sides discussed wide range of issues including core Kashmir dispute, terrorism and trade and economic cooperation. He rejected that Kashmir issue had not been sidelined despite Nawaz Sharif’s snubbing representatives of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference during his first visit to India.
He explained that Kashmir issue did figure in the meeting between the two Premiers asserting that it was ceremonial visit and there was no agenda still all issues came under discussion.
He also rejected the notion that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a charge-sheet to his Pakistani counter-part Nawaz Sharif during their meeting.
“There was no charge-sheet given by Indian Prime Minister rather both the sides expressed their views on all issues of common concern, There was a clear recognition of each other’s concerns and the need for mechanisms to address them.” Prime Minister Adviser added.
Commenting on the probe into the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, he said that the Pakistani delegation advised Prime Minister Modi to let the law take its course.
“No assurances were asked for in this regard and none were given,” he categorically said. On a question pointing out delays caused by India, Sartaj said the issue was not discussed in detail and hence those points were not raised.
He said that the slow progress in the Samjhota Express bombing case was brought up during the meeting.
“The people and government of Pakistan are serious and committed to fighting terrorism in their own national interest,” he quoted the Premier as stating.
To another question, he said Pakistani side opted for dignified rather than aggressive diplomacy.
He asserted that a robust economic agenda, which is the priority of the both governments, couldn’t be advanced without peace in the region. When asked how sincere was the Indian leadership and what difference he feels about the continuity of bilateral talks, Sartaj Aziz said both the leaders agreed that they had the mandate and their respective tenures ahead of them to meet the hope and aspirations of one and half billion people of the two countries.
He said although the visit was essentially a ceremonial occasion, where Pakistan together with other SAARC countries participated in the spirit of the South Asian fraternity, “the actual result and outcome was much better than we expected.”
Sartaj Aziz asserted that although the government was only one day old, the Indian Prime Minister recognized the need for a dialogue process to address all bilateral issues that stand in the way of better relations between the two countries.
“Both the Premiers felt the need to turn a new page in our ties,” he remarked.
On bilateral trade, he said that the issue was discussed and it was agreed that there is still a need to discuss threadbare non-tariff barriers.
NAWAZ-MODI MEETING FRUITFUL: FATEMI
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi Wednesday said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was committed to building cooperative ties with India.
He stated this while delivering keynote address at the two-day international conference on “Pakistan’s strategic environment: Post- 2014”, organized by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute in collaboration with Germany’s Hanns Seidel Foundation, Islamabad.
He said that in the telephonic conversation with Modi to greet him on his electoral victory, the Prime Minister had emphasized that the main dynamic in South Asia should be cooperation, not confrontation. That is why he responded positively to Modi’s invitation and participated in his swearing in ceremony in New Delhi on May 26.
This, he said, was a first in the history of Pak-India relations, adding that the bilateral meeting of the two leaders was fruitful in beginning the process of charting a future course for the relationship. The two sides agreed that the foreign secretaries would meet soon “to review and carry forward the bilateral agenda.”
“We are hoping that, at the end of this process, the Afghan nation would emerge stronger and more unified”, he said, adding Pakistan had affirmed that it would work with whoever would be the democratic choice of the Afghan people.
Speaking about the relations with China, Fatemi said that their relations had transformed into “a comprehensive strategic relationship” and the two countries had achieved a broad consensus on major infrastructure and energy Kprojects in which respect he mentioned the China Pakistan Economic Corridor which will be a ‘game changer’ in ushering a new era of peace, cooperation and development in the region and beyond.
“We share common interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and central Asia with which Pakistan seeks Russia’s cooperation in building energy corridors, economic linkages and road and rail links,” he maintained.