Zardari favours ‘cooperative’ India-Pakistan ties

May 21st, 2008 - 12:37 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 20 (IANS) Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari underlined the need to work towards a “cooperative relationship” and resolve all pending issues between India and Pakistan as he met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee here Tuesday. “We have interest in solving the issues that divide us in a cooperative relationship,” Zardari told reporters.

Mukherjee, who arrived here Tuesday noon, met Zardari and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), a ruling coalition partner, separately.

“They have showed commitment towards the ongoing peace process and are very positive to carry it forward,” Mukherjee told mediapersons after the meetings.

He will meet President Pervez Musharraf Wednesday after the first round of talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Zardari described his talks with Mukherjee as “very good”. He said his party believes in “business and we want to resolve all issues with India… I understand that it will take time but we want to take some solid steps.”

Sharif told reporters he held extensive discussions with Mukherjee. He said he was in favour of increasing trade ties with India. “We believe that such (trade) relations will be helpful in increasing confidence between the two countries.”

Sharif said that during the talks the visiting minister repeatedly mentioned his (Sharif’s) initiative for dialogue and termed the Lahore Declaration signed between him and former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a milestone in resolving all disputes with India.

Zardari recalled the historic relationship his party had with India’s Congress which leads the ruling coalition, and said it was part of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s doctrine of India-Pakistan relations.

He said that as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of the talks, the coalition government had decided to release Indian fishermen and other prisoners in Pakistani jails.

He said the interior ministry was making final arrangements in this regard and prisoners will be freed in a couple of days.

During his meeting with Zardari, the Indian minister also condoled the death of Bhutto.

“Her loss is still a fresh wound. Not just Pakistan but our entire region has lost a charismatic leader of great promise, foresight and capability,” Mukherjee was quoted as saying in his meeting.

“For the sake of our collective futures, we must work together to combat the menace of terrorism. That would be a fitting tribute to Mrs. Bhutto’s memory and her legacy,” he said.

Meanwhile, ahead of the foreign minister-level talks, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir Tuesday concluded the review of the bilateral Composite Dialogue.

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