Kashmir cannot be precondition for Indo-Pak talks: British foreign secretary

Published March 8, 2016
Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz, right, invites British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond for a joint news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad. ─ AP
Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz, right, invites British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond for a joint news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad. ─ AP

ISLAMABAD: Visiting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Tuesday said the issue of Jammu and Kashmir should not be a pre-condition for resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue and urged both countries not to provide space to non-state actors, militants and terrorists to derail the talks process.

Hammond arrived in Islamabad early Tuesday morning on a two-day official visit, and held a meeting with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz at the foreign ministry.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz. ─ Reuters
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz. ─ Reuters

The British foreign secretary also met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif later in the day. His itinerary also includes a visit to Lahore where he will meet the chief minister and the Punjab governor separately.

Addressing a joint news conference with Aziz after talks at the foreign ministry, Hammond said an India-Pakistan dialogue is essential for long-term economic development, peace and security in the region.

"I must appreciate the beginning of investigation by Pakistan into the Pathankot attack," Hammond remarked.

The British foreign secretary paid salute to the Pakistani nation for its resilience and resolve against terrorism, and said days ahead for Pakistan would be safer and stable.

During the talks, both sides reviewed the security situation in Afghanistan, including the reconciliation process.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. ─ Reuters
Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. ─ Reuters

"Terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan is a mutual problem which needs to be tackled jointly," Hammond said.

He said there is a trust deficit between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which could only be overcome when both Islamabad and Kabul take steps to tighten space for militants.

Sartaj Aziz said progress on various aspects of cooperation – political, trade and investment, education, health, and defense – was reviewed.

"Under the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue we have five strands of cooperation: trade and business relations, financial and development cooperation, education and health, consultations on defence and security, and cultural cooperation. In 2014 we prepared roadmaps and targets for each strand of cooperation to provide guidance to the concerned ministries and organisations for implementation," said Aziz

Aziz has been invited to London to discuss the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue in two weeks.

Additional reporting by Irfan Haider

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