India no longer enemy number one: Pakistani politician

March 14th, 2008 - 12:13 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By P.K. Balachandran
Colombo, March 14 (IANS) While blaming the US for the problems facing his country, a leading Pakistani politician has said here that the Islamic nation no longer considers India to be its enemy number one and reduction in hostility between the two nations has led to a “relaxed atmosphere” in the south Asian region. Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistan Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, told the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies here Thursday that the relationship between his country and India was improving since India had shown sensitivity with regard to Pakistan’s political difficulties in 2007 and was changing its attitude over Kashmir.

He said India had accepted Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s thesis that the Kashmir issue had to be solved trilaterally, with the Kashmiri people on both sides of the border also participating in the process of solving the problem.

Sayed pointed out that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was talking to the pro-independence Kashmiri group, the All Party Hurriyat Conference, and Pakistan was talking to the pro-Indian Kashmiri leader Omar Abdullah. There is going to be a track two conference in Colombo involving Kashmiri groups from the Indian and the Pakistani sides.

The Pakistani leader noted that all this had created a “relaxed atmosphere” in the south Asian region.

Sayed saw no possibility of an India-Pakistan war. “War is no longer an option because of the balance of terror that exists between the two countries since both countries went nuclear in 1998,” he said.

However, he regretted that while there was a general mood in Pakistan for an accommodation with India, there was no reciprocal feeling in India. He blamed a lobby of “crusty old men” in India’s officialdom for the undercurrent of hostility in India towards any rapprochement with Pakistan.

In Pakistan itself, India was not being seen as enemy number one any longer, he claimed. Pakistan’s troubles, he said, were originating in Afghanistan.

“Terrorism has no borders. Because there is trouble in Afghanistan, there is trouble in Pakistan,” he said.

Sayed blamed the US for this. The US, he said, had walked out of Afghanistan and took on Iraq before finishing the task it had undertaken in Afghanistan.

He pointed out that today, drug production in Afghanistan was on the rise and this was contributing to warlordism, but the US military was turning a blind eye to it.

While complaining that the US was neglecting Pakistan and had taken India as its “second wife”, he was hopeful about the future. He felt that the US was now undergoing a fundamental change for the better.

The very fact that one of the front runners in the US presidential race was Barack Obama, whose father was a Kenyan Muslim, augured well for the emergence of an era of tolerance in US foreign policy.

On the internal situation in Pakistan after the recent parliamentary elections, Sayed said the military was keen to “extricate itself from the mess of politics”.

This remark is significant in the light of the fact that he is secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), a party aligned with Musharraf.

Asked if the Pakistan army would seize power after a while, as it had done so many times in the past, he said: “The ball is in the court of the politicians”. He pointed out that often in the past, politicians had roped in the military in their fights.

Although his party was aligned with Musharraf, he said that his “personal view” was that the provision in the Pakistan constitution that gave extraordinary powers of intervention to the president should be reviewed.

“It has been used four times since it came into being in 1998. It has been a source of instability,” Sayed said.

He urged all south Asian countries to stop squabbling with one another and instead build economic bridges, in tune with the emerging trends in international politics.

Sayed said the south, central and south east Asian regions had already begun coming together through trade, investment and energy sharing schemes.

Schemes to link central, south and south east Asia with oil pipelines were an “extremely important” development in the region, bringing diverse countries together, he said.

“A new entity, which could be dubbed Pipelineistan, is emerging,” he said.

In this context, he welcomed the expansion of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), which now has an eighth member, Afghanistan, and has China, Japan, EU, South Korea and the US as observers. The 15th Saarc summit is to he held in Sri Lanka in July-August this year.

Sayed refuted a suggestion that expansion would make Saarc weak.

Expansion would give Saarc a new and more useful dimension, in keeping with the times. Saarc’s expansion was part of the emergence of a new kind of regionalism ruled by economic imperatives, he said.

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