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Updated: April 6, 2010 00:18 IST

Zardari: we are for peaceful settlement of all outstanding disputes with India

Anita Joshua
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Asif Ali Zardari.
AP Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday asserted that his country did not want an arms race in the region, but added that “a disproportionate increase in military budget by the largest democracy does not help the cause of arms reduction.”

Mr. Zardari said this while addressing the joint session of Parliament.

While much of his speech was devoted to the Pakistan's return to democracy, which includes shedding his own powers, India came in for mention more than once. Advocating dialogue, he said Pakistan wanted an “honourable and peaceful settlement of all outstanding disputes,” including the water issue and the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

Mr. Zardari argued that normalisation of relations with India was crucial for durable peace in the region. “We can fight militancy better through dialogue and cooperation instead of doubting each other.”

On the issue of water, he said it was raised with India, and Pakistan would continue to raise it at every international forum within the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty.

The President also dwelt at some length on what the government perceives as Pakistan's growing credibility in the comity of nations. Though his government had inherited isolation, the international community was increasingly realising the importance of Pakistan and its commitment to fighting militancy and strengthening democracy, he said.

And, as if to silence those who accuse Pakistan of being a satellite of the United States, he said: “Our focus has been, and will remain trade and not aid.”

On the domestic front, he urged Parliament to hasten the passage of the 18th Amendment that will put Pakistan back on the track of democracy and federalism. In saying so, Mr. Zardari more than once sought to draw attention to his own contribution to the process of repealing the 17th Amendment and resurrecting the 1973 Constitution drafted during the administration of his father-in-law Zulifqar Ali Bhutto.

In an oblique reference to his ongoing problems with the judiciary, Mr. Zardari said each pillar of the State should work within its constitutional limits and should not trample on the domain of others. “We believe in reconciliation and not confrontation.”

Maintaining that the government believed in transparent accountability of all, he said everyone should be held accountable across the board and not selectively. “Let everyone be judged by the same yardstick. Let there be no different laws for different people.”

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