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Jamali hopes SAARC meet will lead to resumption of dialogue

By Vaiju Naravane

Paris Dec. 9. The Pakistan Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, said today that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Islamabad next month would hopefully lead to a quick resumption of dialogue with India.

"Besides the agenda of the SAARC, I said I hope we can sit together on the sidelines. Yourself and myself — and also you and my President. We have set the ball rolling. Let's see how it comes out," he said, describing his telephone conversation on Monday with the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Mr. Jamali is on a two-day official visit here and is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister, Jean Pierre Raffarin. He met officials of the French Ministries of Defence and Industry, besides businessmen. Following the United States decision not to sell F-16s to Pakistan, Islamabad expressed keen interest in acquiring more of the Mirage jets.

In an interview with AFP, Mr. Jamali said that the U.S. had bitten off more than it could chew by simultaneously taking on Iraq and Afghanistan in its fight against terrorism. Its action in Afghanistan had been half-hearted and inadequate and the U.S.-led forces had failed to follow through their initial successes almost two years ago, allowing large parts of the country to remain out of their control.

"The initial thrust — that interest should have remained. But you just can't keep on spreading it. If you start in Afghanistan and by the time that issue is over you get into Iraq. And by the time that issue is over you want to get into Iran: you can't do that — it's not possible."

Asked if that meant the U.S. had taken on too much? "I think so," he said.

Mr. Jamali rejected the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai's accusation that the Taliban forces were being sheltered once again in remote areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.

"I think Mr. Karzai must learn to stand on his own feet. Friends can strengthen his hands, but they can't hold his feet — he has to have the strength and power to stand on his feet.

``He has to manage his internal problems. To shift the blame on Pakistan is absolutely irrelevant, and we don't agree with it."

Expressing dismay over the Commonwealth's decision to maintain Pakistan's suspension on the grounds that adequate progress towards democracy had not been made, he said: "I am disappointed at the lack of knowledge in the Commonwealth. They should realise that Pakistan has moved from a military regime to a civil set-up. There is a Parliament. Elections have been held. I am travelling around as the Prime Minister with acceptance in all the countries, so what reservations does the Commonwealth have about it?"

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