Kashmir is the core issue, Pakistan tells India

New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) Pakistan Thursday said the Jammu and Kashmir dispute was at the core of its issues with India and both countries must move ahead without being held hostage by the Mumbai terror attack.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told reporters after bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao that Pakistan had great faith in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s vision for a peaceful South Asia.

‘From Pakistan’s perspective, the core issue that has bedevilled India-Pakistan relations is the Jammu and Kashmir issue. It is an international issue.

‘These are issues that relate to human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir. So Pakistan’s position on Kashmir was that the composite dialogue is revived so that we can address the issue in a more meaningful manner,’ he said.

Bashir added that Pakistan had done everything that could be done to proceed against Pakistani terrorists who attacked Mumbai last year, leaving 166 people dead and seriously straining bilateral relations.

‘Suspects are under trial. It is unfair and unrealistic and counter-productive to make this issue or (any) one incident (and to keep) focusing on that and to stall the overall relationship,’ he said.

‘The only proper way in our view is to engage meaningfully on all these issues.’

He added terrorism had no ideology and no borders and that Pakistan had suffered ‘hundreds of Mumbais’.

Bashir said Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used by anyone against any other country. ‘We continue to prove it every day. The only way forward is to not to hold it hostage.’

In an obvious reference to Balochistan, he said Pakistan had its own concerns ‘and these relate to information and intelligence about Indian involvement in activities prejudicial to Pakistan’s security’.

Bashir said the Pakistani leadership had ‘immense respect for the vision of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. We feel he is really keen, he has the vision for a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.

‘We are prepared to move forward and to improve our relationship and turn a new chapter.’

He admitted that ‘there is a huge gap between expectations and mistrust or distrust that exists today. My effort today was to bridge our differences to see if we can honestly, openly, frankly and also in a cordial atmosphere understand our bilateral views better’.

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