Endorses proposal for connecting Multan with New Delhi

President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday ruled out unilateral withdrawal of troops from Siachen but maintained that Pakistan would do so if India also pulled out its soldiers from the world's highest battlefield.

Mr. Zardari also endorsed a proposal — described as unviable by his own government in 2009 — to connect Multan with New Delhi through Head Sulemanki to boost trade and economic activities.

Responding to the suggestion of the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, that Pakistan should take the initiative in withdrawing troops from Siachen, he said only a joint withdrawal would be possible. The President made these remarks at Wasawela in the Okara district of Punjab.

His reiteration of Pakistan's stated position on Siachen comes close on the heels of not just Mr. Sharif's suggestion but also the advocacy of demilitarisation of the glacier by Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

“We are aware of the extreme climate and other difficulties at one of the world's most difficult terrain but the withdrawal can only take place if the two governments decide to pull out from the area jointly,” the President said, adding that Pakistan was open to discussing all issues with India.

Stating that the democratic government of Pakistan believed that bilateral trade could bring prosperity to the two developing nations, Mr. Zardari said he discussed ways of enhancing trade ties with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during their recent meeting in New Delhi.

He urged the federal government to seriously consider connecting Multan with New Delhi through Head Sulemanki to boost trade and economic activities.

However, on March 12, 2009, the then Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had informed the National Assembly that this was not a viable option. According to him, this was the considered opinion of not just his Ministry but the Interior and Commerce ministries also whose views were sought while examining the proposal to open a new route with India through Head Sulemanki for trade.

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