Islamabad, Apr 5: Pakistan today said it is looking forward to a “constructive engagement” between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at their upcoming meeting but there would be no compromise on the “core issue” of Kashmir or maintaining credible nuclear deterrence.
As Zardari geared up for his trip that will see him visit the Ajmer Sufi shrine after a lunch meeting with Singh, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told parliament that his government would take the legislature into confidence on the talks and it is committed to discussing all “core issues”, including Kashmir, with India.
Islamabad also said the meeting in New Delhi on April 8 will contribute to intra-regional peace.
“We can assure you that the government is responsible and the dialogue is going on with them (India). We are discussing all the core issues, including Kashmir, Siachen, water and everything, all the issues,” Gilani said while making a statement during a joint session of the National Assembly and Senate.
The President had intended to go on a “private visit” to the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer but the Indian Prime Minister offered to host him for lunch, Gilani said in response to points raised by opposition lawmakers.
Though the PM, being the chief executive, is the key person for talks with India, the President too could have discussions with Indian leaders during his visit, Gilani said.
“Whatever talks are held with the President, we will take the House into confidence,” he added. Gilani said his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh had told him to “put all the cards on the table” as he (Singh) was “ready to discuss all issues, including Kashmir”.
Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told a weekly news briefing earlier that Pakistan is looking forward to a “constructive engagement between the two leaders” when Zardari travels to India on Sunday for a day-long private visit.
“We are of the view that the upcoming meeting between the President and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over lunch will contribute towards achieving the President's vision to promote intra-regional peace and prosperity in this part of the world,” Basit said.
Both sides have not provided any details about the agenda for this meeting though Basit said the two leaders “would discuss all the issues which continue to take priority in our bilateral relations”.
“These meetings at the summit level are always very helpful but that does not mean that we have compromised on our principled positions on other issues, especially the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” Basit said in response to questions about the first India visit by a Pakistani head of state since 2005.
The Kashmir dispute is a “core issue” between the two countries and Pakistan believes that its “just and fair settlement is a sina qua non for establishing viable and lasting peace in South Asia”, he said.
“There is no question about changing our position on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” Basit added.
When asked about the induction of a nuclear submarine in the Indian Navy yesterday, the spokesman said “Pakistan, under all circumstances, will maintain the credibility of its nuclear deterrence.”
Later, Gilani also contended that he had, for the first time, raised the Kashmir issue at a joint press conference with Singh.
“I want to assure you that we will not do anything which affects the country's dignity, self-respect and honour. We are as patriotic as anyone can be and the country's interests are most precious for us,” he said.
Gilani further contended that it was a compliment for the people of Pakistan that he had been described as a “man of peace” by Singh.
Giving details about the upcoming visit, Gilani said the President had a wish to visit the shrine at Ajmer.
“He had a mannat (wish) for which he had to go. He is going there purely as a matter of faith. It is his private visit and the rules of business will be followed,” he said.
Gilani noted that he too had visited the Ajmer shrine with slain former premier Benazir Bhutto when the Pakistan People's Party was in the opposition.
Zardari will be the first Pakistani head of state to visit India since 2005, when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had gone to New Delhi.