Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned on Tuesday that Thursday’s Foreign Secretary-level talks with India would not achieve progress if its scope was limited to “a narrow agenda” of terrorism-related issues.
Pakistan wanted “a meaningful dialogue” with India on a broad range of bilateral issues “that are of concern to both sides,” including Kashmir, said Mr. Qureshi, who is here on a five-day official visit.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao indicated on Monday that the talks would mostly be restricted to India’s “core concerns” over cross-border terrorism.
The Pakistani Foreign Minister said, “Doing so would be a very narrow way of looking at real challenges.” “We want all issues that are of concern to both sides to be brought on the table so that dialogue is serious, meaningful and will be result-oriented.”
Mr. Qureshi was speaking at the China Institute of International Studies, an influential Beijing think-tank.
“If India restricts the agenda or tries to narrow it down to its own immediate needs, then I am afraid much progress will not be achieved,” he said.
Pakistan sought an early resumption of the composite dialogue, which was suspended following the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. Thursday’s Foreign Secretary-level talks in New Delhi would serve as “an exploratory meeting”. He called on both sides to adopt “a constructive approach” with a view to “taking the next step of resuming the composite dialogue.”
In his visit to China, Mr. Qureshi has briefed senior officials, including Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, on Pakistan’s progress in tackling terrorism.
China has, in the past, expressed concern over links between some Pakistani-based terror outfits and extremist groups in its troubled Xinjiang region, which borders Pakistan.
On Tuesday, Mr. Qureshi said Pakistan “had taken prominent steps” in clamping down on terror groups. He rejected suggestions that Pakistan had not done enough in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, instead blaming “political considerations” for India’s decision to suspend the dialogue.
“After 14 months, India has reengaged with us and invited us for a dialogue,” he said. “I think there is a growing realisation within India that [suspending the dialogue] was a negative, knee-jerk reaction that was counterproductive.”
Asked about concerns in India that Pakistan had not done enough to dismantle terror networks operating on its soil, he said the two countries needed “more engagement and more co-operation,” irrespective of their differing views on Pakistan’s actions. He said Pakistan was “as much a victim [of terror], perhaps more” than India was.
He added: “For the sake of discussion, even if we agree we have not done enough [on terror], does that quality for suspending dialogue? Or does that invite greater understanding and co-operation? I think the answer is… more engagement, sitting across the table and making the other person understand each other’s concerns. Not the policy India followed, of suspending talks.”