We want to move relationship forward with India: Qureshi


New Delhi : Notwithstanding the lack of progress in July 15 talks, Pakistan has said it is ready to walk the “extra mile” as it wants to “move forward” in building relations with India but insisted that the two countries need to be “mutually accommodative”.

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Pressing for a “comprehensive and sustained” engagement, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi maintained that Kashmir issue would have to be the part of any discussions and “selective” approach would not be helpful.

“It is true that we have not been able to map the future course of engagement. This, however, does not mean that we have reached a cul de sac,” Qureshi told PTI in an email interview.

He was responding when asked whether the efforts to bridge the trust gap had received a serious blow during his July 15 talks with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna.

The talks in Islamabad ended on a bitter note of differences over terrorism and Kashmir, which came to the fore at the joint press conference addressed by Qureshi and Krishna.

“I think there is a mutual desire on both sides, at the highest political level, to engage and talk,” Qureshi said and added that, “we are ready and prepared to go the extra mile” to build relations.

“We need to be mutually accommodative. As in India, there is also democracy in Pakistan. We cannot overlook our public opinion, which on some core issues is quite strong,” he said.

Disfavouring any “selective” approach, he said, “as you would know, we have been discussing Kashmir. It is nothing new that we brought up.”

He was responding when asked whether Pakistan would not like to have any talks with India unless Kashmir is on the agenda as it has been terming it as its “core issue”.

Pakistan wants to engage with India “in accordance with the Thimphu spirit”, he said referring to the meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Bhutanese capital on April 29 when they agreed that the two countries should work to reduce trust deficit.

“In Pakistan, we would like to see our relations with India move forward. Let us work together,” Qureshi said. The Pakistan Foreign Minister was asked whether he agrees with Krishna that he was “satisfied” with the talks and these had helped to “some extent” in bridging the trust deficit.

“The Islamabad meeting did provide us a good opportunity to put across our respective positions frankly and honestly. It, therefore, served a useful purpose,” he replied.

On the next step after the lack of results in the July 15 talks, Qureshi said, “Positive and constructive approach is the need of the day.” He disfavoured any “idea of placing pre-conditions for a dialogue process” when asked to respond to India’s stand that dialogue will have to be a graduated process and issues like Kashmir and Siachen can be discussed only after Pakistan shows “visible” action on punishing perpetrators of Mumbai attacks and ending terrorism that affects India.

“Dialogue is always a graduated process. What we are saying is to embark on a comprehensive and sustained engagement,” he said, adding, “We understand that there are no quick fixes.”

He refused to comment when pointed out that there is a feeling that the US is pushing both India and Pakistan to have dialogue. “At the end of the day it will be Pakistan and India themselves who will have to decide how they want their future relations to look like,” Qureshi underlined.

“Let me reiterate that dialogue is the only way forward between our two countries. It is important not to detract our attention from the ultimate objective of having normal bilateral relations. It is important, we move forward in a spirit of cooperation and accommodation,” he said.

He noted that he has the highest regards for Krishna and holds him in high esteem.