Set aside Kashmir

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Islamabad, Mar 1: PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has said that India and Pakistan should set aside the Kashmir issue to be resolved by a future generation while they focus on trade and economic ties to improve bilateral relation.

Dismissing the belief in some sections in India that the Kashmir issue could best be sorted out while the army is in power in Pakistan, Zardari said "well, we've had army rule for eight years. Have they solved it? I don't need to convince them, it talks for itself." He added that people-to-people contacts and inter-dependence in trade could help negate the "fear factor" in both countries.

If India were to invite the new Pakistan Prime Minister for a visit, he would go to Delhi along with the leaders of all political parties that would back the PPP's government to signal Islamabad's desire for better relations, he said.

Zardari accepted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf "may have probably had the best understanding ever".

"I want to take (the relations) to a stage of such confidence-building that the fear factor diminishes from both angles," he added.

"People-to-people contacts should be improved, then trade inter-dependence of trade. If Indian industry depends on Pakistani energy and I depend on the Indian market for my product to be sold, we are both inter-dependent, financially integrated industry-wise," Zardari told in an interview to a news channel.

Asked about the Charter of Democracy signed by the PPP and the PML-N in 2006 that committed both parties to resolving Kashmir issue in line with UN resolutions, Zardari said: "I am not getting hostage to that issue.

"The idea is that we feel for Kashmir, the PPP has always felt for Kashmir. We have a strong Kashmir policy, we've always had one," he said.

Asked if the PPP would be willing to put aside the Kashmir issue just as India and China had set aside their border dispute to focus on other aspects of their ties, Zardari said: "exactly."

When bilateral relations improve, the two nations can come back and tackle thorny issues with the benefit of improved ties.

"Today there are fixed notions. When dependency increases (and) we have matured enough (and) we've got trust between us, then nobody has fixed issues," he said.

Asked if he initially wanted to focus on trade and economic inter-dependency, Zardari replied: "yes, the idea is that (if) India needs to be an economical superpower, it cannot go without energy. The energy corridors are with me."

The new PPP government would be committed to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and would guarantee its security. Pakistan would also take steps to export "coal-oriented energy" to India, he said.

Zardari said he was determined to break barriers and mindsets that deter trade. "That's the idea," he said.

Agreeing that the border issue between India and Pakistan should be set aside for a wiser generation and a better time, he said: "as it is, it's going to be a no-border world in the end."

ANI

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