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Updated: September 19, 2009 00:00 IST

Do not abandon peace process, Zardari urges India

Hasan Suroor
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Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday urged New Delhi not to abandon the “composite dialogue” with Islamabad because of its anger over the 26/11 Mumbai attacks saying the very purpose of such terror acts was to disrupt the peace process.

“Terror attacks are always directed at democracies. They are also directed against the peace process with India that we have initiated,” he said at the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies in what was billed as his first major international address.

While declaring that Pakistan was “determined” not to allow anyone to use its territory against a third country, Mr Zardari called for an end to “blame game” and said what Pakistan expected from its friends and allies was “active regional cooperation and understanding.”

Later, he sought to clarify that he was not accusing India of playing the “blame game” and was actually referring to the West’s complaints that Pakistan was not doing enough to tackle terrorism.

Saeed issue

The President evaded a direct reply to a question on the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, accused by India of being behind the Mumbai attacks.

“The investigating officer can tell you more about it than me,” Mr. Zardari said, claiming he did not know about the “exact charge” against him.

Mr. Zardari said the “revival of the composite dialogue process” was necessary and in the mutual interest of both India and Pakistan.

He also insisted that a “meaningful” resolution of the Kashmir issue was necessary for durable peace and stability in South Asia.

Replying to a question from a Pakistani journalist, he said Kashmir had been on the U.N. agenda for 61 years and the two countries had fought three wars over it.

“Kashmir is crucial to restoring peace [with India] and there has to be a peaceful solution to Kashmir.”

On terrorism, the centrepiece of his brief speech, Mr. Zardari repeated the familiar Pakistani line that “non-state actors and supporters of dictatorship” were responsible for it. His government, he claimed, was “determined” to fight it but it “can’t be done overnight.”

He said Pakistan was keen to improve relations with India and invited New Delhi to join the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Group set up to promote democracy in his country.

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