India favors strong, stable Pak: Mukherjee


New Delhi : Maintaining that it favoured a strong and stable Pakistan, India Friday reacted to western concerns about nuclear weapons falling into “jehadi hands” by noting that President Pervez Musharraf was in “command”.

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External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that he was hopeful that the people of Pakistan would be able to overcome the current crisis.

“We wish them all success in their endeavors because we believe that a strong, stable and prosperous Pakistan will be helpful to us,” he said while responding to questions at a luncheon meeting with PTI Editors here.

Asked about concerns voiced in the western media over the dangers of Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into “jehadi hands” given the political instability in that country, Mukherjee in a carefully-worded response said “everybody will have concerns if they (nuclear weapons) fall into wrong hands or if non- state actors have access to them.

“But, perhaps now President Musharraf is in command of the situation and I think he is also the civilian head of the command of the nuclear system.”

During the interaction, Mukherjee answered questions on a wide range of topics including China, Sri Lanka and the current status of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

He said if one looked at the history of Pakistan, it had gone through many difficult situations but, at the same time, it had shown there was “strength and resilience in the
system to overcome them”.

Asked if the current situation could lead to increased violence in Jammu and Kashmir, the minister said “problems” in the state were there and were not new.

“Sometimes infiltrations and terrorist activities are accelerated and decelerated. Perhaps, terrorism cannot be switched on and switched off. In many of the countries it has taken a long time to settle the issue.

“We are engaged in a Composite Dialogue with Pakistan. We are pinning hopes on the assurances in the Joint Statement of January six, 2004 that Pakistan’s territory will not be
allowed to be used by terrorists. We are hoping that they will adhere to the commitments and that the infrastructure which are there will be destroyed,” he said.

Asked how has India’s experience been with Musharraf, Mukherjee recalled that the Pakistani leader had declared a ceasefire in November 2003, and till now it is holding and the border is peaceful.

Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have had several rounds of discussions and institutional arrangements were in place including the joint anti-terror mechanism.

“Though it (the mechanism) has not proved fruitful as yet. But let us hope the situation will improve further”.

To a question as to who India would deal with, “let us not surmise about individuals and what is going to happen in the future. We have to deal with the leadership of Pakistan as and when they have been established.

On Siachen, he said some talks have taken place. “But it has not been possible to arrive at an arrangement which can be described as some sort of solution. But talks are still on”.

Outlining the broad contours of foreign policy, he said India does not believe in exporting its ideologies and dealt with neighbours as they are.

“We have learnt to live with systems that prevail (in the neighbourhood),” he said.

India also believed in good relations with all neighbours and the extended neighbourhood and also to have relations with geographical blocks like the European Union.