Prospects of Indo-Pak Dialogue Bright: Khurshid

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SRINAGAR: External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid, Friday said the composite dialogue with Pakistan would be resumed after the new government under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief  in the neighbouring country settled down. Khurshid was talking to media after addressing Congress workers at the PCC headquarters, here today. He, however, was circumspect in talking at length about the improvement in relations.

“It is not good that we say everything right at the outset. The atmosphere is good at the moment. Let it improve further to be conducive for talks,” said Khurshid.

He showed optimism saying there were issues on which both the countries expected progress. “Let the new government in Pakistan settle down and understand its job, then we can resume it. However, there are some issues on which both the governments and people expect some progress. Then things can move on smoothly from there,” he said.

“Dialogue with Pakistan was started already and had gone forward but due to some unfortunate incidents, it received setback and under compulsion the process had to be stopped. Now after the Pakistan elections, Nawaz Sharief government has given some indications of good relations and we have also responded to that. It will take some time for him to establish and after that talks can go forward. However, CBMs are important and need to be taken,” he said adding, “The issues on which we can make forward movement, we will do that. There are some issues on which some quick progress is not possible.”

He said there were some confidence building measures which had to be taken by both the countries to further improve the atmosphere. Salman hinted at easing out the visa regimen. He said one of the main problems faced by people of both the countries was strict visa rules which had to be softened to make the travel easy and improve people to people relation. 

“There are confidence building measures like the most favoured nation status (to India) which they had decided earlier, but has not been implemented yet and the new visa regimen which we have announced to enable travel of more people across the border. We can move forward only one step at a time,” he said.

Responding to the AFSPA related questions, Khurshid said the act was needed in Jammu and Kashmir to protect the lives of armed forces.

“You can argue that this (AFSPA) is not necessary and you can argue that we can now phase it out. You can argue that we can put more restrictions on it, but to say in black and white to take it off is not a reasonable or sensible thing to say,” said Khurshid.

“This case is not to be decided by me. It is to be taken by the Home Minister, Defence Minister and, of course, the Prime Minister, who will finally take a call,” he said.

Alluding to the recent militant attack on the army that killed eight soldiers and injured more than a dozen, Salman said it was both the civilians and the forces that had to bear the brunt of violence.

“You think it is limited to only one section. We have lost some very brave people also,” he said.

AFSPA was not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in the Northeast as well, Khurshid said.

“This kind of discourse and discussion goes on there also. No one imposes AFSPA for fun. The circumstances become such that it has to be imposed. What kind of supervision should be there and what kind of accountability should be there is discussed not only here but also in Delhi by people who are not under this act,” he added.

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