Islamabad, Aug 23: Emphasising on the need to resume stalled composite dialogue between Pakistan and India, President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday said recent LoC incidents should not be allowed to derail the normalisation process between the two countries.
"We believe the way forward for the two countries is to resume the stalled composite dialogue process at the earliest," Zardari said. He said that Pakistan wanted to transform bilateral relations with India into a friendly and cooperative partnership through resolving of outstanding disputes.
The Pakistani President, however, maintained that the two sides need to ensure that the fall out of the recent incidents along the Line of Control should not be allowed to derail the normalisation process.
"Our new democratic government has exercised restraint," Zardari said, adding that, "the Prime Minister is committed to peaceful relations with India and has stated that his government will continue to exercise restraint".
Zardari made the remarks while speaking at a dinner hosted in the honour of Islamabad-based diplomats here at the Presidency to thank them for their support and cooperation during the past five years. Zardari will demit office on September 8. He said that Pakistan sincerely desires to establish durable peace and stability in the neighbourhood.
"We need peace and stability to realise the vast potential of mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse fields," he said. As Afghanistan's closest neighbour, Pakistan has borne the brunt of the crisis in Afghanistan in the past over three decades, he said.
"The cost for Pakistan has been enormous. We have been hosting the largest number of refugees in the world over several decades. We have endured the inflow of drugs and weapons," he was quoted as saying by the state-run APP news agency. The Pakistani President said the cost for Pakistan has been huge, in both blood and material losses.
"History has proved that the destinies of our two countries are inter-linked," he said. "Our dreams of peace and prosperity cannot be realised as long as Afghanistan remains in turmoil. It is for these reasons that helping restore peace and stability in Afghanistan remained on top of our agenda during the past five years," he added.
President Zardari said Pakistan has been engaged in President Zardari said Pakistan has been engaged in serious efforts at the bilateral level with other key stakeholders in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been part of several forums specially designed for this purpose, he said.
Zardari reiterated Pakistan's commitment to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of transition as the war-torn country approaches the next important stage of transition with the drawdown of foreign forces. "We are extending every possible support to the efforts for intra-Afghan reconciliation," he said.
Expressing confidence that Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to Pakistan would help in better coordination, Zardari said he was looking forward to it. Besides the diplomats, the dinner was also attended by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chairman of the Senate, Speaker National Assembly, Federal Ministers and a number of Members of Parliament.
The Pakistani President said democracy was taking roots in Pakistan, as for the first time in the country's history one elected civilian President would be handing over charge to another elected civilian President in a smooth and orderly manner. Zardari welcomed Prime Minister Sharif to the function and said,
"His presence here is a demonstration of the movement towards maturity of our democracy." "In our journey on the road to democracy and progress we all have suffered in varying degrees. Mr Nawaz Sharif also endured the rigors of exile and imprisonment in this journey," he said.
Zardari appreciated the role of the diplomatic core in strengthening the mutual relations between Pakistan and respective countries. During the function, Zardari also spoke on challenges faced by Pakistan, including the war against terrorism and the country's relations with regional countries.
He said that the last five years have been extremely challenging and eventful years. "Some of the old challenges still persist and new challenges have emerged," Zardari pointed out. The Pakistani President, however, expressed his satisfaction that he would be handing over a far more stable and stronger Pakistan than what he had inherited five years ago.