LAHORE - Terming President Zardari’s India visit as “very successful and important”, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday said that opening of trade with India would go a long way in promoting stability in the region bring the two countries closer.
Gilani said that trade sphere would be enlarged to include Afghanistan and Iran as well by giving transit facility to India. China will also become an active trade partner with these countries, he said, adding that enhanced trade activity among the regional countries would help promote stability and peace in the region through amicable resolution of contentious issues.
“Progress on balance of trade with India, Pak-Afghan Transit Trade and energy projects with Iran will help the country achieve the cherished goal of stability in the region” for which his government had been making efforts, the prime minister said.
On Pakistan’s disputes with India, the PM said that president’s visit to India was part of track-II diplomacy to normalise the relations. He said all political parties including the PML-N were in favour of establishing good relations with India. On MFN status to India, the Premier said that the trade relations were in the interest of people of both the countries.
When asked if military establishment was also on board over this fresh thaw of ice between the two states, he dodged the question by saying “they should be supportive of the government initiatives in this regard”.
About any breakthrough in talks with India on Kashmir as well as water issue during the present government’s tenure, Gilani said the government was optimistic about it. “The government would keep working for durable peace in the region for future generations.”
He said Pakistan was looking for a solution of the Kashmir issue which is acceptable to the people as well as leadership of Kashmir, adding that only Gen (r) Pervaiz Musharraf could tell about the backdoor diplomacy on Kashmir during his regime. “We would make a fresh start to resolve all outstanding issues with India.”
Gilani hoped that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit would strengthen bilateral relations between Pakistan and India. He termed President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to India as successful, saying that all core issues including Kashmir came under discussion during the New Delhi meeting.
He noted that Pak-India relations had been on a higher note with the exchange of high-level delegations from both sides like recent visits by the Indian parliamentary delegations as well as speaker of the Lok Sabha.
On the issue of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Gilani said that US had been told in clear terms that it was Pakistan’s internal matter, and rather than announcing head money, “it should have talked to us directly with evidence to establish its claim of Hafiz’ involvement in terrorist activities.”
The premier made its clear that Pakistan will accept only that evidence which is sustainable in the court of law. He said Pakistan was also having negotiations with India over Hafiz Saeed’s issue. “We have also told India to share with us a concrete evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities.”
Gilani informed media men that interior secretaries of India and Pakistan were scheduled to meet on April 16 to discuss security issues including that of Hafiz Saeed. He said the matter would be resolved through secretary level talks.
On loadshedding, he said Punjab was hosting an Energy Conference on the issue in Lahore on Monday (today) to find ways and means of overcoming the energy crisis with the help of technical experts. The federal government, he said, will take part in the moot with open mind and will go by the opinion of experts.
“We will put all cards on the table and let the technocrats to settle the issue… All reservations of Punjab chief minister will also be addressed,” he said, adding that he respected the opinion of Punjab CM on loadshedding.
To a question about purchase of electricity from India, he clarified that Pakistan was having negotiations with the neighbouring country to purchase only 500MW electricity and not 5,000MW as reported in the media. “It would come from Indian Punjab if the talks succeed.”
To a question about ISI’s political role, the PM said it should not have any such role. He avoided questions regarding contempt of court case against him in the Supreme Court. “Why do you want to make me upset by mentioning this case”, he said in a lighter vein, adding, “Let the court decide and we would respect the verdict”.