Wars not solution, talks only way forward: Gilani

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said wars are not a solution to the problems between India and Pakistan and hoped that their upcoming talks would help reduce the trust deficit and build a solid foundation for taking the peace process forward.

“Wars are not a solution, talks are the only way forward between Pakistan and India,” Gilani told a visiting Indian peace delegation led by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar.

He said his government would like to continue working with its Indian counterpart to “resolve all outstanding issues peacefully in just manner.”

Gilani said it was “his earnest hope” that upcoming talks “would serve to reduce the trust deficit and create a solid foundation for taking the process forward.”

He emphasized the need for an “uninterrupted as well as uninterruptible dialogue process to focus on contentious issues and on promotion of trade, economic, intelligence-sharing, sports and cultural cooperation.”

Gilani also called for increased people-to-people contacts and exchange of parliamentary delegations.

The first priority of the PPP-led government is development of the well-being of the people of Pakistan, for which peace and stability in the country are critical, he said.

“Pakistan hence wishes to have friendly, cooperative and good neighborly relations with India,” he said.

Gilani said that “he had personally invested in the peace process, given his ancestral and family’s long-standing historical contributions to the joint Indian war of liberation and India-Pakistan friendship.”

Gilani’s remarks came days ahead of a meeting of the Home and Interior Secretaries of India and Pakistan in New Delhi on March 28 to mark the formal resumption of the peace process that was stalled in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

The two countries recently agreed to revive the “full spectrum of dialogue.”

The Prime Minister expressed his satisfaction at the resumption of dialogue, noting that the Home and Interior Secretaries will meet in New Delhi next week to take up terrorism, drug trafficking and humanitarian issues.

The Indian Commerce Secretary will visit Islamabad towards the end of April and other segments of the strategic dialogue are being scheduled to pave the way for a meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries, followed by the Pakistan Foreign Minister’s visit to New Delhi in July, Gilani said.

However, the government is yet to appoint a Foreign Minister and the Foreign Office is currently under Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar, who is working under the Premier’s supervision.

Gilani assured the Indian peace delegation that Pakistan will project the forthcoming talks in a constructive manner.

Appreciating the contributions of civil society of both countries in promoting peace, friendship and development in the region, Gilani said he wanted to benefit from the wisdom of civil society and peace activists in pursuing cordial neighborly ties with India.

He recalled his meetings with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2009 and at Thimphu in Bhutan in April last year and said he “fully believed in the sincerity of Singh for the resolution of all disputes between the two countries through the peace process.”

Gilani urged politicians and the media of both countries to play a positive role in taking the peace process forward.

The Indian peace delegation agreed with Gilani that misperceptions and criticism of efforts to promote good Pakistan-India relations as a “mirage” need to be addressed through increased people-to-people contacts and parliamentary exchanges, said a statement issued by the Premier’s office.

The members of the Indian delegation also proposed cooperation between universities and regular exchanges of artists, journalists, sports teams and members of civil society to create an atmosphere conducive to pursuing the peace process.

They assured Gilani that they would continue to bring the people and governments of the two sides closer.

Among the other members of the Indian delegation were filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, Vrinda Grover, Jatin Desai, Mazhar Hussain, Ramesh Yadav, journalist Shahid Siddiqui, Haris Kidwai and Bharai Modi.

-PTI

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