India talks aimed at conflict resolution: Dialogue being held through various channels: FOISLAMABAD, April 4: Pakistan on Tuesday declared that peace talks with India were being pursued through various channels and expressed the hope that the dialogue would lead to forward movement, particularly on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. “We have interaction between the leadership of the two countries. We have the composite dialogue process, we have the backchannel diplomacy and we are working on all fronts,” Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly briefing on Tuesday.
Underscoring that dispute resolution was the objective of the peace process, Ms Aslam said: “The spirit behind the peace talks is not just reduction of tension; it’s resolution of disputes, particularly the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Naturally, once we have movement towards resolution of disputes there will be reduction in the tension and we do hope there won’t be any arms race.”
Answering a question, she said that conducting missile tests was part of Pakistan’s minimum credible deterrence and work on that would continue.
Asked if Pakistan shared All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader (APHC) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s optimism that a framework for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute was likely this year, the spokesperson said: “We are always optimistic and we do hope that there will be forward movement.”
On the Mirwaiz’s demand that China also be made a party to the resolution of the dispute, she said: “According to the United Nations resolutions there are only two parties to the Kashmir dispute, that is Pakistan and India.”
She, however, hastened to add: “Of course, Kashmiris are a party because it is a question of their right to self-determination.”
She said the entire international community was involved in encouraging a settlement of the dispute.
The spokesperson maintained that the APHC leader had not referred to any chunk of territory of Kashmir being with China. She asserted that his argument for associating China with peace process was that China is a big player, being the largest and the most influential country in the region.
RIGHTS VIOLATIONS: In reply to a question on human rights violation in Kashmir, the spokesperson said: “We were told that India is working on it.”
Referring to the argument that violence inside occupied Kashmir was linked to cross-border infiltration, she pointed out that there was acknowledge ment by India that it had now significantly scaled down.
“Consequently, we expect that human rights violations would also come down because some kind of relief to the Kashmiris is a priority for us,” she said, adding: “And that’s why we have repeatedly talked about demilitarisation or at least removal of troops from big urban centres and rural areas.”
She said there had been no progress on the opening up of Pakistan’s consulate-general in Mumbai. The process of finding a property had to be started from scratch as the deal finalised earlier fell through because the landlord backed out at the last moment citing security problems.
About the Indian proposal of setting up visa camp offices in Karachi and Mumbai, she said: “We have an agreement on establishing the two consulates-general in Mumbai and Karachi.”
On the US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher’s arrival in Pakistan on Monday, she said: “This visit would provide an opportunity to review bilateral relations, particularly in follow-up to President Bush’s visit and various initiatives that were discussed and finalised during that visit.”
Answering a question about the US interest in obtaining the observer status at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the spokesperson said: “We have not yet received any formal information from the Saarc Chair.”
GWADAR: Dispelling speculation about moves to hand over Gwadar to Oman, she said: “That issue was settled long time ago. It (Gwadar) is part of the territory of Pakistan and it will stay that way.”
She, however, added: “Of course we welcome foreign investment in various sectors and we welcome the Omani increased investment in Pakistan as well.”
TIES WITH KABUL: In reply to question about the state of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, she characterised them as ‘very good’.
On the recent killing of Pakistanis in Spin Boldak, she said Kabul had informed Islamabad that the commander in Boldak, suspected to be involved in the incident, had been removed and placed under house arrest.
She said the government had also been informed that two inquiry commissions had been set up to look into the case.
EXTRADITION TREATY: On the proposed extradition treaty between Pakistan and Britain, she said: “It is more or less final, we’ll decide the time of signing it.”