PM-level talks should not be without proper preparations: Former Pak Foreign Minister

PM-level talks should not be without proper preparations: Former Pak Foreign Minister

Summit talks between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan should not take place without any \"proper preparations\", says former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, adding the only way to end the post-Ufa deadlock is to begin secret back-channel parleys.


Summit talks between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan should not take place without any "proper preparations", says former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, adding the only way to end the post-Ufa deadlock is to begin secret back-channel parleys.

The secret talks should be conducted in the same way both sides very nearly finalised a formula for resolving the Kashmir issue between 2004 and 2007, he said.

Asserting that India and Pakistan should first remove the intense mutual "antagonism" to improve strained ties, he said a "gag order" must be imposed by their Prime Ministers against those in the establishment making inflammatory comments against each other.

Days after his book "Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove" hit the stands in India, Kasuri claimed the back-channel peace talks that almost culminated into its permanent settlement of the Kashmir issue around eight years ago had the endorsement of Pakistan military and ISI, asserting that it was time both sides "grow up" and resolve it.

Kasuri, who was Pakistan Foreign Minister between 2002 and 2007, called Narendra Modi's invitation to Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony last year and seeking a meeting with him at Ufa as a positive signal in approaching the Kashmir issue.

"High-level meetings, summit level meetings should never take place without proper preparations. There was no homework done for Ufa. It is better that these meetings do not take place. I am in favour of shaking hands, smiling, even a cup of tea in front of cameras without serious talks," Kasuri told PTI in an interview. Modi and Sharif held talks in the Russian city of Ufa in July.

In his 850-page book, Kasuri details the contours of what he claimed "the possible settlement" of Kashmir issue which he said included its demilitarisation, self-governance and setting up of a joint mechanism through which people on both sides can cooperate with each other. There has been no authentication yet by the Indian side about Kasuri's claim.

Kasuri said it took almost three years to persuade Pakistan Army and the ISI about the "settlement" on Kashmir and they as an "institution" decided to back it while claiming that the perception that the army does not want resolution of the lingering issue was not correct.

"I made sure that papers were delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari," he said. Talking about current state of ties between India and Pakistan, he said both sides must traverse the peace path and open unbounded opportunities for their people.

Referring to aggressive comments from both the sides against each other in the wake of border tensions in the recent months, Kasuri said both the Prime Ministers "must apply a gag order" and that only the two premiers should talk.

"They should ask people who know nothing to keep quite. It is not their business to talk," he said adding "relationship of antagonism should be removed."

Kasuri also hoped that Modi will adopt a pragmatic approach in resolving the Kashmir issue, rejecting apprehension in some quarters in Pakistan that he could adopt an aggressive attitude.

"I hope Modi's desire to develop India economically will bring the pragmatism in his personality to the fore and help check a tendency among some elements in his party to please grass-roots support," he wrote.

Ties have been strained between the two neighbours over border firing and a series of ceasefire violations. Talks between India-Pakistan National Security Advisors were canceled recently because of a dispute over the agenda. India wanted to discuss terror attacks and Pakistan insisted on raising Kashmir.

In his book, Kasuri said as Foreign Minister he held talks with Kashmiri leaders in Islamabad, New Delhi and in some other world capitals to know about their views about resolution of the Kashmir issue.

"There was also a general realisation that rising militancy was not in our long-term interests. We felt that in the changing international climate, Pakistan would do all it can to espouse the cause of Kashmiris," he said.

In his book, Kasuri blamed mushrooming of madrasas for rise in militancy among the youth particularly in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He said it was a failure of Pakistan government in the social sector, particularly education, which played a major role in radicalising young minds in madrasas.

"Pakistan is facing the consequences of this radicalisation. It is also believed that a large number of Muslim countries were involved in supporting their respective lobbies financially in Pakistan to create pockets of support along sectarian lines," he said.

Elaborating on efforts to contain militancy, he even wrote that centres were set up to "wean away" militants from their "past" and impart skills to them. He said Pakistan was trying to take steps to "de-radicalise" and rehabilitate those involved in militancy.

In the interview, Kasuri said there was no homework done for the Ufa meeting. "We have fought wars. We had the largest mobilisation since the second World War which was in 2001-2002. One million soldiers stared at each other over barrel of the gun.

"Both were trying to destabilise each other. It is a game both can play. It's a game neither will win as both the agencies have acquired expertise at finding the fault lines in the two countries and destabilising," he said.

Crediting Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the first peace initiative, he said, "We were unhappy when they lost elections in 2004 because we did not know whether the Congress will accept it and carry forward the initiative.

"We were pleasantly surprised within one month when Natwar Singh (Foreign Minister in first UPA government) said that the Manmohan Singh government will carry forward this process."

Asked whether Modi will be able to take forward the peace process, he said he was optimistic.

"You cannot coarse us to do what you want us to do. We cannot coarse you to do what we want you to do. How long will it last. The days of war is unthinkable," said Kasuri.

On if India makes any surgical strike inside Pakistan to target terrorists, Kasuri's response was "God forbid all hell will break."

Asked why Pakistan was not being able to take action against terror elements, he said religion has larger influence and that it was easier to send a prime minister to jail than dealing with religious forces.

Explaining about the "settlement" on Kashmir, he wrote India had made it clear that any solution to the issue will have to include all the territories including the Northern areas as well as Gilgit and Baltistan.

"From our perspective, the arrangement that was arrived at took into account the aspirations of people of Gilgit and Baltistan on the one hand as well as those of the people of J&K on the other."
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