Visit is part of Pakistan's emphasis on regional dialogue, collaboration, Hina Rabbani Khar tells Parliament

As the advance party for President Asif Ali Zardari's day-long visit to India began packing its bags on Thursday, the government found itself once again on the defensive; warding off criticism that this was yet another indication of the Pakistan Peoples Party's `pro-India' tilt that had resulted in Kashmir being put on the back burner.

All issues are under discussion, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani informed Parliament; assuring members that the legislature would be taken into confidence if discussions are held on any issue with the Indian leadership.

Private visit

Speaking on the President's upcoming visit to India, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told Parliament that this was part of Pakistan's emphasis on regional dialogue and collaboration in the quest for peace. This was true for all of Pakistan's immediate neighbours, including China, Iran, India and Afghanistan. She also clarified that the meeting with Dr. Singh was being held at India's request as the President was essentially going to India on a private visit to offer prayers at the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer.

Intra-regional peace

Earlier in the day, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said: “We are of the view that the meeting between the President and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will contribute towards achieving the President's vision to promote intra-regional peace and prosperity in this part of the world. We are looking forward to a constructive engagement.”

Stating that all issues would be discussed, the spokesman sought to dispel the assumption that the President's visit to India at this juncture — when the Kashmir issue remained unresolved — would dilute Pakistan's stance on what it considers the core issue with India. “We attach importance to high-level interaction between Pakistan and India but that does not mean Pakistan is budging from its principled position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. We are of the view that [a] just and fair settlement of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute is a sine qua non for viable and lasting peace in South Asia.”

The President is scheduled to fly to New Delhi on Sunday morning with a 47-member delegation that would include some members of his family and the federal Cabinet. From the Capital, the entourage will head to Ajmer before returning home.

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