ISLAMABAD, Nov 11: Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri has said that the Indian offer of confidence-building measures “is not enough without initiating a dialogue on the Kashmir issue”.

The foreign minister, while briefing newsmen about his tour of Spain, the UK and Belgium here on Tuesday, said he had conveyed to his European interlocutors that “a method has to be found to address Kashmiri aspirations for durable peace in South Asia”.

He said he had pointed out to his hosts the duplicity in the Indian policy of accusing Pakistan of cross-border terrorism while, at the same time, proposing to restart a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

“Is this bus service for taking the so-called terrorists in air-conditioned coaches?” he asked sarcastically. “Both of these things cannot be true.”

Mr Kasuri said some of the measures announced by New Delhi were initially proposed by Islamabad. India, he said, was under intense international pressure to engage Pakistan. “While Pakistan favours dialogue, India does not,” he maintained.

India had to please its people in a conflicting way, he said. “India is so big a country that there is always elections going on in some state,” he elaborated. “In one state they get votes by adopting a hard line towards Pakistan while in others soft posturing wins them elections.”

Acknowledging that Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was “a man of peace”, the foreign minister said the premier had shown flexibility during the Agra Summit. “But so did President Musharraf,” he added. “The bottom line is that the CBMs have to lead to something, to a dialogue,” he said.

Asked if the issue of ARD president Javed Hashmi’s arrest had come up during his meetings with European ministers, Mr Kasuri said it was not discussed at any of the bilateral meetings. Nor did the European Commission mention the issue.

“But (EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris) Patten and other members of the European Parliament did ask about Mr Hashmi among other things,” he said, adding in quantitative terms that the issue did not take “more than may be two per cent of the time.”

Asked if the delay in the ratification of the third generation agreement by the European Parliament was caused by Mr Hashmi’s arrest, he denied the link, saying Pakistan was already enjoying all the economic benefits in this regard.

The foreign minister said he had used the opportunity to explain to his interlocutors the progress of democracy in Pakistan. “I told them that the press in Pakistan was free, vibrant, and much more critical of the government than what it w as in India,” he said, referring to the victimization of journalists in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

He went on to praise independence of judiciary in Pakistan while narrating how Indian judiciary was silenced by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi during the emergency in 1977.

He said he favoured Track II diplomacy. “I was a Track II activist before I became foreign minister,” he said, adding, “when Indian delegates came here recently they were received by the president and the prime minister, but this was not reciprocated by Indians.”

He regretted that Pakistani journalists were refused visas to attend the Saarc meeting in New Delhi.

Referring to the alleged bugging of Pakistan High Commission in London, he said “people had already been sent for a possible de-bugging of the premises” and added that the issue had come up for discussion during his meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Mr Kasuri expressed the hope that Pakistan would get into the Commonwealth “sooner rather than later.”

Giving details of his visit, he said Pakistan’s participation in the Madrid Conference reflected “the strong bonds of faith and history that we share with the people of Iraq.”

He said Spain and Pakistan had agreed to hold bilateral consultations on a regular basis. Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio had accepted invitation to visit Pakistan shortly, he said, adding the minister of state for foreign affairs, Ramon GilCasares, would visit Pakistan on Friday.


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