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Imran suggests secret talks on Kashmir issue

Updated December 08, 2013

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Former cricketer of Pakistan and founder of the Tehrik-i-Insaf party Imran Khan  speaks during the Hindustan Times (HT) Leadership Summit 2013 in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.  — Photo by AP
Former cricketer of Pakistan and founder of the Tehrik-i-Insaf party Imran Khan speaks during the Hindustan Times (HT) Leadership Summit 2013 in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. — Photo by AP

NEW DELHI, Dec 7: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Imran Khan says he supports secret talks between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue because open talks run the risk of being subverted by vested interests he didn’t identify.

Mr Khan, who was speaking here on Saturday at an international brainstorming jamboree, ruled out a military conflict as a solution to any dispute between the two countries, not the least because both had nuclear-armed militaries.

“Secret talks are the best bet because otherwise there are strong vested interests on both sides to subvert them,” he said with a smile in reply to a question at The Hindustan Times conclave.

Mr Khan said cooperation between the two countries on issues like energy and food security was important and both could possibly have a joint civil-nuclear cooperation if his party came to power.

Reacting to a question on a reported statement by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that a fourth war between India and Pakistan is a possibility on the issue of Kashmir, Mr Khan said: “I don’t think even Nawaz Sharif believes that because the two nations with nuclear weapons do not go to war.”

Mr Sharif’s office subsequently denied he spoke of a fourth war with India.

Kashmir remains the “core issue” of dispute between the two countries and once that problem is solved all other problems would go, the former cricket icon said.

He claimed that both the countries had almost finalised the details of a deal on Kashmir that could have possibly put an end to the problem in 2008 but the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai derailed the talks.

Mr Khan said both the countries needed to cooperate on major issues like food and energy security. “For India, if it has to achieve growth of 9 to 10 per cent, you need energy and from where will you get energy? All the corridors, it may be oil from Iran or gas from the Caspian Sea, have to pass through Pakistan,” Press Trust of India quoted him as saying. “We are facing a major problem of food security, so we can have cooperation on this. Plus, there are major issues like water security on which both the countries require greater cooperation,” he said.

According to the news agency, he said if his party came to power, it would undertake two major programmes with India – try to bridge the mistrust and ask for a joint civil-nuclear cooperation managed and operated by the two countries on their common borders. Secondly, as a confidence-building measure his government would look to free prisoners trapped in Pakistani jails, who were arrested for either straying in Pakistani waters or for accidentally crossing the border.