Linking the Kashmir problem with the Middle East conflict, President Asif Ali Zardari has asked the US to demonstrate “neutrality” and step up efforts to “mediate” on the issue between India and Pakistan.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times, he also accused India of playing destabilising role in the region and said that the perceived “rhetorical” one-sided American policy often fuels conspiracy theories in Pakistan.
“Public mistrust of the United States also stems from regional issues, specifically policies concerning India. I know it is the conventional wisdom in Washington that my nation is obsessed with India,” he wrote.
“But even to those of us who are striving toward accommodation and peace, the long history and the unresolved situation in Kashmir give Pakistanis reason to be concerned about our neighbour to the east.”
Just as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute cannot be resolved without accommodating the Palestinian people, “there cannot be permanent regional peace in South Asia without addressing Kashmir,” Mr. Zardari said.
While welcoming the Kerry-Lugar bill under which his country gets USD 7.5 billion from America in the next five years, he said this is not enough.
“This long-term commitment must be complemented by short-term policies that demonstrate American neutrality and willingness to help India and Pakistan overcome their mutual distrust. It could start by stepping up its efforts to mediate the Kashmir dispute,” he said.
Mr. Zardari said the “recent upset” in Pakistan over the Kerry-Lugar legislation, which US President Barack Obama signed into law and which requires the Secretary of State to report to Congress on military and civil progress in Pakistan, shows how sensitive many in his country are to what they see as unfair treatment by the US.
“It would be helpful if the United States, at some point, would scrutinise India in a similar fashion and acknowledge that it has from time to time played a destabilising role in the region,” he wrote.
In his article titled ‘How to Mend Fences with Pakistan,’ Mr. Zardari said he along with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is working closely with national assembly and military and intelligence agencies to defeat the Taliban insurgency and the al-Qaeda-backed campaign of terrorism.
“Simultaneously, we are pursuing policies that will re-establish Pakistan as a vibrant economic market and finally address the long-neglected weaknesses in our education, health, agriculture and energy sectors. This isn’t just rhetoric -- it is an active policy with new budget priorities and a reoriented national mindset,” he said.
“Over the last weeks I have moved forcefully to re-establish the traditional powers of the presidency as defined in the parliamentary model on which our Constitution is based. Our Constitution was distorted and perverted by military dictators who usurped the legal powers of Parliament,” he said.
“In accordance with the manifesto of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Mr. Zardari said, he is working towards strengthening the separation of powers of the Presidency from those of the Prime Minister.
“Recently, I voluntarily handed back the chairmanship of the National Command Authority that exercises control over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
“Contrary to some of the commentary on the subject, this is not a sign of weakness, but rather a demonstration of the vitality of Pakistani democracy,” Mr. Zardari said.