Peace process not stalled, Zardari to meet Singh: Pak

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Sep 18 (PTI) Dispelling fears of a downslide
in bilateral ties, Pakistan Thursday said its dialogue with
India has not "stalled" despite "hiccups" and that President
Asif Ali Zardari would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in
New York next week to take the peace process forward.

A Pakistani team will visit Delhi shortly to take up
Kashmir-related matters, including cross-Line of Control
trade, and Islamabad believes the long-standing Sir Creek
boundary dispute and the military stand-off on the Siachen
glacier could be resolved by the two countries, Foreign
Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.

"I do not think that the peace process has come to a halt
because our team is visiting Delhi shortly to discuss
Kashmir-related issues, particularly cross-LoC trade...We are
also keen to send a delegation from our side of Kashmir to
Srinagar to discuss with business circles there the tradable
items," he told reporters here.

"That I would not call a stalling of the (peace)
process," said Qureshi, who will be part of the Pakistani
delegation that Zardari will lead to the U.N. General

Zardari's meeting with Singh on the sidelines of the U.N.
meet will be important as it will give the two sides an
opportunity to exchange views on outstanding issues, he said.
"The meeting in New York is required because we have to
continue to pursue the peace process which is in our mutual
interest," Qureshi added.

Though there had been "hiccups" in the peace process,
both countries have to "remain steadfast and keep moving in
the right direction", he said.

The two sides will also have to be "very careful and
avoid the blame game" with regard to the recent terrorist
attacks in India, Qureshi remarked.

Responding to questions on the bomb attacks in New Delhi
that killed over 20 people, Qureshi said: "The groups claiming
the recent violence have nothing to do with Kashmir. I don't
know what agenda they have but you can't point fingers at

The Indian Mujahideen group has claimed responsibility
for the blasts in Delhi as well as recent bombings in Jaipur,
Bangalore and Ahmedabad.

Qureshi also said the recent unrest and protests in Jammu
and Kashmir were "completely indigenous" as "local feeling
that was simmering has come out".

Asked about Zardari's recent statement that there would
soon be "some good news" on Kashmir, Qureshi said the Pakistan
government wanted to evolve national consensus to resolve the
long-standing issue.

"It is not a new issue and it is not easy to resolve. We
need consensus on it," he said.

After discussions with all political parties, the
government has decided to form a parliamentary caucus on
Kashmir that will try to build national consensus on the
issue. The caucus will be briefed by the Foreign Office on
the Kashmir issue so that it could frame a way forward in
future, Qureshi said.

Qureshi said he had told Indian leaders during
interactions that it was important to address "core issues"
while moving forward on matters like trade, liberalising the
visa regime and people-to-people contacts.

Qureshi said the Sir Creek boundary row and the military
stand-off on Siachen were "solvable and could be resolved" to
the benefit of both countries.

In the field of trade, both sides had strengths they
could benefit from while people-to-people contacts would help
bridge the distance and address misperceptions, he said.

Qureshi also said Pakistan had taken up the issue of the
reduced water flow in the Chenab river with India. "Pakistan
has valid reasons for concern and I took up the issue after
being briefed by senior officials, including Indus Waters
Commissioner Jamat Ali Shah," he said.

The Foreign Office had taken up the matter through
diplomatic channels and also with Indian High Commissioner
Satyabrata Pal. Pakistan's High Commissioner in Delhi
yesterday met Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who
said the issue would be resolved under the terms of the Indus
Waters Treaty, Qureshi said.

The Foreign Minister parried questions on the resurgence
of militant groups that had been banned by the regime of
former President Pervez Musharraf.

He acknowledged that some of these groups had adopted
"different cloaks" while recently issuing statements and
organising protest rallies.

The government has to keep a "difficult balance" as it
could not be perceived as cracking down on democratic
protests. However, it would not "permit armed organisations
creating havoc within Pakistan and destroying the image of
Pakistan," he said.