Pakistan needs to improve its relations with India so that it can focus on the situation along its western border with Afghanistan where more troops have been deployed than at any time in the past,Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said.
“I am aware that the attention of Pakistan’s armed forces is now focused on the western border. There has never been such a big deployment on our western border in the past. Is it not in Pakistan’s interest that there should be some betterment in the situation on our eastern front if we are to give attention to the western front and make progress there?” he said.
It is in Pakistan’s interest to sit at the negotiating table for talks with India to ensure political stability,economic growth and success in the campaign against extremism and terrorism,Qureshi said in an interview with Geo News channel.
“Besides,I do not see any other solution,” he said.
Qureshi side-stepped a question on India’s demand for action against Hafiz Saeed,the JuD chief and founder of the banned Lashker-e-Taiba that has been blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
He said Saeed had been detained twice by the government only to be freed on the orders of the judiciary.
“India links Hafiz Saeed sahab’s issue to terrorism and…to the Mumbai incident. Our view is that we detained him twice and our courts freed him on the ground that the evidence (against him) was inadequate. The judiciary is independent and we have to respect their decision,” he said.
Asked whether the ongoing India-Pakistan re-engagement process would be able to withstand another Mumbai-like attack,Qureshi said the two countries should ensure the process becomes “irreversible” if they “want to achieve something”.
“If you want to start and then stop as in the past,it will be talks without results. This has happened in the past and the whole region loses,” he said.
When he was asked how the process could be made irreversible,Qureshi replied: “It can be irreversible if both countries see terrorism as a common challenge and I tried to convince (Indian Home Minister P) Chidambaram when I met him that this problem is not only India-specific.
“Only Pakistan is not affected by it. The whole world and region is affected by it and both of us cannot tackle it individually. There is a need for a regional approach and till we take it as a common challenge,sit together and search for a way out,pointing fingers at each other will not solve the problem.”
Qureshi repeated his assertion that about 30 million acre feet of river waters is wasted or mismanaged within Pakistan while responding to a question on differences with India over the sharing of river waters.
He said if river waters entering Pakistan is wasted,Pakistan cannot then “blame” India for the phenomenon.
“That is our own mismanagement. If we are getting 104 million acre feet of water and we use 74 million acre feet,where is the rest of the water going? You cannot blame India for that,” he remarked.
At the same time,Qureshi acknowledged that Pakistan had differences with India over the sharing of waters and that he had raised this matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
If the two countries could not resolve these differences bilaterally,other options are available to them under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960,he said.
“We have a very good treaty in place and I don’t think we should move away from it. We should focus on it and find solutions while remaining within that treaty,” Qureshi said.
Responding to a question on India’s alleged involvement in fomenting unrest in Balochistan province,he said: “We have evidence and proof which we can raise. We looked at the situation in the region and weighed our options and decided to use diplomatic channels and not the media.
“There is now progress and our views are accepted by many forces,who agree that instability in Balochistan is not in the interest of the region. They also agree that Afghan soil should not to be used against Pakistan.”
Qureshi also said Pakistan has expressed its concerns about India’s “Cold Start” defence doctrine,which he
described as “very dangerous”.
He added: “If Cold Start is implemented,will Pakistan just sit by and wait?… If the Indian armed forces are ready,Pakistan is not complacent. The Pakistani military is keeping an eye (on the situation) and is aware of its responsibilities. But that is not a solution to the problem.
This is mutual suicide and we should not do it.”
India and Pakistan took steps to a phased re-engagement during recent visits to Islamabad by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Home Minister P Chidambaram.
Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir exchanged proposals to be taken up during a meeting of the Foreign Ministers in Islamabad on July 15.
Chidambaram spoke of the need for Pakistan to do more to bring the perpetrators and masterminds of the Mumbai attacks to justice during his meeting with Interior Minister Rehman Malik.