Pakistan-India peace process should be uninterrupted: Ambassador

WASHINGTON: Pakistan desires to pursue an uninterrupted peace process with India that addresses causes of outstanding disputes and “not just symptoms” for achievement of durable peace in South Asia, Islamabad’s ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani said Tuesday.

He described such a scenario where the two South Asian neighbors pursue an approach to resolve disputes and work on areas of convergences as the “most desirable”.

The ambassador revealed that Pakistan and India have revived back channel diplomacy as part of efforts to address issues of concern.  Ambassador Jilani was speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace on a discourse on Pakistan-India relations, moderated by George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies at the think tank.

The ambassador’s remarks on the peace process referred to resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and other issues including Siachen, Sir Creek and water disputes that were part of the composite dialogue between the two countries.

He underscored that need for addressing these issues peacefully through a political approach.

He said the foreign secretaries of both countries would meet shortly to resume stalled peace process between the two nuclear powers and expressed confidence that Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s proposal of the Pakistani and Indian national security advisors establishing a mechanism for constant contact would be taken up positively.

The top Pakistani diplomat in Washington said an uninterrupted process should allow both countries to encourage peace constituencies on both sides.

He emphasized that ‘settlement of disputes in accordance with international legality will establish permanent peace’ in the region.

Referring to the respective agendas of Prime Minister Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on economic revival and peace, the ambassador said the understanding reached between the two leaders during their recent contacts to revive peace process generates hope.

“That will be a first step towards creating a cooperative and tension-free relationship between the two countries,” he said of the revival of the peace process.

In response to questions, Ambassador Jilani said both sides should work to address each other’s concerns including Pakistan’s concerns regarding Indian involvement in Balochistan.

On the positive side, he said, the trade between the two countries has increased and may touch $ 5 billion mark by 2015. On Islamabad granting Indian most favored nation status, he said, the two sides will work on this matter as the dialogue process resumes.

The ambassador also noted a marked improvement in Pakistan-U.S. relations. The event was attended by think tank experts and South Asian scholars. In response to a question by Dr. Nisar Chaudhry, President Pakistan American League, Ambassador Jilani said Prime Minister Sharif genuinely wants to foster peace with both neighbors India and Afghanistan and the neighbors.

Ambassador Jilani said despite a history of tensions there is a strong realization in South Asia of the imperatives of peace and development in the region.

He said Prime Minister Sharif’s government feels that South Asia cannot progress unless India and Pakistan resolve their differences and disputes and make a common cause against poverty, extremism and terrorism.

On the issue of terrorism, he stated, it is as much a concern to Pakistan as it is to India.
“India should allay Pakistan’s concerns over interference in Baluchistan”, he added.

There is broad political consensus in Pakistan to promote regional cooperation as a path to peace and prosperity, he said.

The settlement of issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with international legality is of critical importance to establish permanent peace, he added.

Noting the progress previously made in bilateral relations, Ambassador Jilani remarked that both sides have had constructive discussions in the composite dialogue in the past years and were able to conclude a number of Confidence Building Measures but  not much progress was achieved on the substantive issues.