Aziz welcomes Kashmir Troop Reduction Email this page
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Colombo, Nov. 22 (NNN): On the eve of his trip to India, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, has hailed New Delhiís move of troops reduction in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kashmir issue, gas pipeline and the Indus Water Treaty are top of the agenda for Shaukat Aziz when he visits New Delhi on Tuesday.

Aziz may be Pakistan's top technocrat credited with turning around the economy but ahead of his visit to India, Aziz is having to practice some serious diplomacy.

In Colombo he made all the right noises about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's move to withdraw troops from Kashmir.

"We welcome any reduction of tensions in the region. We hope that this process will continue particularly in the urban areas where there is a large concentration of troops," said Aziz.

Many see this as an attempt to lower the pitch after Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's Saturday statements that accused India of inflexibility on the issue of Kashmir.

Aziz has always looked up to Manmohan Singh as his economic guru and insists he wants to build on the chemistry between Singh and Musharraf in New York.

According to Pakistani officials, the following is likely to dominate Aziz's agenda. He may not push a formal Kashmir proposal on the lines of Musharraf's speech but is hoping to make it a debating point.

Look at diplomatic options on the Baghlihar Hydropower project, which Islamabad insists goes against the Indus Water Treaty.

Discuss trade and the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Pakistan has set the stage for progress by adding 81 more categories of goods to a list of 768 goods to be imported from India.

Meet Hurriyat leaders the evening before the meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and seek some commitment on starting the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus service.

Pak Leaderís Plea: meanwhile, Pakistan's leader of opposition Fazlur Rehman has said that the Kargil conflict of 1999 exposed the differences between the military and political leadership of Pakistan.

He said any such future adventure would cause major impediment in normalising Indo-Pakistan ties.

"We want the dialogue between the two countries to continue. The people on both sides are yearning for peace. There should be no new Kargil as this would lead to a major impediment," said Rehman.

The chief of Muttahida Mahali-e-Amal said this while addressing the concluding session of fourth conference of South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) in Lahore last night.

Singing a conciliatory tune, a day after President Pervez Musharraf expressed his disappointment over India's attitude towards conflict resolutions, Rehman said "all issues can be resolved by dialogue and not through violence."

The Muslim cleric accused leaders on both sides as being "insincere" towards resolving core issues, including Kashmir, and said it further complicated the peace process.

Recalling the Kargil conflict, Rehman said the event led Pakistan to give an explanation before the international community.

"There were talks between the two Prime Ministers (Navaz Sherif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee) and two days later Kargil happened. Whatever explanation Pakistan may give for Kargil war, the fact is that it made Islamabad's intentions questionable and pushed the country to defensive," he said.

Rehman stressed that dialogue between India and Pakistan should be held at a political level and not left to the mercy of bureaucrats.

"Bureaucrats cannot move the files beyond the drawn lines whereas politicians have the courage to explore new ways and path and open many other doors if one is closed," he said.

The leader of opposition also stressed for inclusion of Kashmiri leadership in the talks.

"Kashmiri leadership should be involved in the talks. If not, they should atleast be kept abreast of the progress made by the two countries in resolving the disputes," he said.

Comparing the approach of NDA and UPA governments towards resolution of Kashmir issue, Rehman said that during BJP's regime, expectations were very high.

"However, the present government is maintaining low profile while discussing the issue seriously," he said.

Rehman, who had led a delegation of Muslim clerics last year to India, hoped that all stumbling blocks in the course of the peace process would be removed very soon.

In a veiled criticism of the US, the cleric said the situation emerging after 9/11 attacks on America and the subsequent attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq had only increased the threat potential and caused serious concerns on human rights across the globe.

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