Back channel on Kashmir open: Aziz

Islamabad: Pakistan and India are continuing their back channel talks aimed at resolving vexed issues like Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen, and improve bilateral relations, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, said Saturday.

Aziz’s comments came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said good relations between India and Pakistan were “very essential” for the subcontinent to realise its full development potential.

In an interview with state run Radio Pakistan‚ Aziz however said that any breakthrough or forward movement on these issues could only be expected after the elections in India.

He said it is our utmost effort to improve relations with India and a significant lobby there also cherishes the same dream.

“ In the present circumstances when the India is heading towards elections, peace at the Line of Control (LoC) and continuation of talks is necessary to avoid any tension in bilateral relations.” He said.

“Though the composite dialogue is facing delay due to the elections in India but certain groups on trade, energy and visa are in negotiations with each other.”

Asked about the Kashmir dispute, he said it was a very important issue and its resolution was imperative for improving Pakistan-India relations.

He said several countries have realized the importance of peace between the two countries and are now evincing interest in a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Between 2005 and 2007, India and Pakistan, through a series of back channel negotiations, came the closest to a deal on Kashmir.

Manmohan Singh also said on Friday: “At one time, it appeared an important breakthrough was in sight. However, in Pakistan, General Parvez Musharraf had to make way for a different set of leaders. I think that led to the process not moving properly. However, I stll believe that good relations between India and Pakistan are possible.”

Aziz, in reply to another question on the Indian prime minister’s wish to visit Pakistan, said Sharif had invited Manmohan Singh to visit the country. Though there is less possibility of the visit, but if he wishes to visit Islamabad in the next few weeks, he said: “We will definitely welcome him.”

Manmohan Singh had said he would “very much like to go to Pakistan” as he was born in a village that was now a part of Pakistan.

“However, as prime minister, I have to go when a positive result can be had. I did not think the circumstances were right. I have still not given up hopes of going to Pakistan before I leave office,” Manmohan Singh added.

Paksitan-India ties touched a new low in 2013 with the beheading of an Indian soldier last January along the Line of Control and the mutilation of another. This was followed by cross-firing on the LoC. Both sides accused each other of violating the ceasefire announced in 2003. This, and the lack of progress in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack led to the calling off of the composite dialogue between the two countries.

But even as this happened, trade flowed across the border and there were agents of peace who quietly worked on improving the ties between the two nuclear powers. Agencies

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