ANKARA - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that the people had given him the mandate to improve ties with India and Pakistan is keen to have a comprehensive dialogue with New Delhi for the resolution of all issues including the core issue of Kashmir.
Terrorism and extremism are now a global menace and combating this scourge is one of the top priorities of his government, he said, soon after his arrival in Ankara Monday afternoon.
In an interview to Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) Network, the prime minister spoke at length on a number of national and international issues and declared that “visiting Turkey is like coming home”.
On relations with India and Afghanistan, he remarked his government pursued a foreign policy of forging stable and cooperative relations with all countries, especially our neighbouring countries. “For the effective pursuit of our socio-economic agenda, good relations with all our neighbours are essential and a priority for my government.”
“I have always given high priority to good relations with India for the sake of durable peace in the region. We are keen to have a comprehensive dialogue with India for the resolution of all issues including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, Nawaz Sharif added.
Nawaz said he started this process when the then Indian prime minister AB Vajpayee visited Lahore in 1999 and the two sides were very close to finding a negotiated settlement to the Kashmir dispute.
The prime minister declared that Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan. “Pakistan desires peace and stability in Afghanistan. We remain committed to supporting efforts for stability, peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan in an inclusive, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process,” he said.
On fight against terrorism and negotiations with Taliban, Nawaz said: “Combating terrorism and extremism is one of the top priorities of my government. Terrorism and extremism are now a global menace. No country in the world is unaffected by it. Militancy and extremism pose a grave challenge to Pakistan’s progress and development.”
The prime minister continued, “We have suffered enormous human, economic and social losses on account of it. Yet we are steadfast in our resolve to eradicate terrorism from our society. I have invited all political parties to join hands with my government for formulating a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy and we held a successful All Parties Conference on this issue on Sept 9.”
On the main topics of his visit and agreements to be signed, Nawaz said: “Visiting Turkey is like coming home, which is always a source of pleasure for me. I have a substantive agenda for this visit that runs the entire gamut of our bilateral relations. I am looking forward to exchanging views with President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan and members of his cabinet on bilateral political and economic issues.”
He further said, “I will be co-chairing the third session of the High Level Cooperation Council with Prime Minister Erdogan. As I have mentioned earlier, the economic agenda is a priority for my government and it will play a leading role in our mutual deliberations. I am also looking forward to the Business Forum in Istanbul on Sept 18 where I would interact with the Turkish business community.”
Nawaz went on to say that regional issues such as Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt will also come under discussion. “We fully understand the position of Turkey on Syria. We remain deeply concerned at the conflict in Syria. We hope that this situation is resolved peacefully, in keeping with the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people,” he averred.