Zardari visit: Pakistan hopes for peace; says no compromise on Kashmir

Islamabad, April 5: Pakistan Thursday said the forthcoming meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will contribute to intra-regional peace, but made it clear that will not compromise on on the “core issue” of Kashmir and will maintain its deterrence.

“We are of the view that the upcoming meeting between the president (Zardari) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over lunch will contribute towards achieving the president’s vision to promote intra-regional peace and prosperity in this part of the world,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters here.

He stressed that Pakistan is looking forward to a “constructive engagement between the two leaders” when Zardari goes to India Sunday for a day-long private visit to offer prayers at the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer.

Zardari, accompanied by a 40-member strong delegation, touches down Sunday morning in New Delhi.

He will holds talks with Manmohan Singh at the latter’s official residence and have lunch with him before flying to Ajmer.

The two sides have been keeping details of the visit under wraps. Basit, however, said the two leaders “would discuss all the issues which continue to take priority in our bilateral relations”.

“These meetings at the summit level are always very helpful but that does not mean that we have compromised on our principled positions on other issues, especially the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” Basit said in response to questions about Zardari’s visit to India, the first by a Pakistani head of state since 2005. Pervez Musharraf visited India in 2005.

The spokesperson said the Kashmir dispute is a “core issue” between the two countries and Pakistan believes that its “just and fair settlement is a sina qua non for establishing viable and lasting peace in South Asia”, he said. “There is no question about changing our position on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” he stressed.

When asked about the recent induction of a Russian-made nuclear submarine in the Indian Navy, Basit said Pakistan was “cognisant of the requirements to maintain the credibility of its deterrence”. “There is no question that we, for a moment, are oblivious to developments taking place in our region. Pakistan, under all circumstances, will maintain the credibility of its nuclear deterrence,” he said.

Alluding to the UN Special Rapporteur’s report on Jammu and Kashmir, Basit said Pakistan concurred with the findings and claimed the people of the state were campaigning for the “right to self-determination”.

He added that the international community was focussing on what he described as the “grave and serious” human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir and called for the revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

IANS