Zardari softpedals on Kashmir at UN, India takes note

September 26th, 2008 - 8:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew York, Sep 26 (IANS) In his debut speech at United Nations, Pakistan’s new president Asif Ali Zardari focused on combating terrorism while softpedalling on the Kashmir issue, wanting Islamabad and New Delhi to resolve their disputes by accommodating each other’s concerns and interests - a positive sign noted by India.”We will continue the composite dialogue with India so that our outstanding disputes are resolved, whether it is the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir, or cooperation on water resources,” Zardari said in his speech at the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly here Thursday.

He wanted India and Pakistan to respect each other and work together to peacefully resolve bilateral problems and build South Asia into a common market of trade and technology.

“Better relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and India would help create the regional environment that is more conducive to reducing militancy in our region,” the co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said.

On terrorism, Zardari asserted his country’s anti-terror record and repeatedly referred to the assassination of his wife, Benazir Benazir, a former prime minister, to underscore that Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism, not its cause.

“We have fought this battle largely alone. We have shared our air bases, our air space, our intelligence, and our armed forces in a coordinated effort to contain terrorism,” he added.

Underlining the new democratic regime’s policy on the issue, he said: “The fight against extremism is a fight for the hearts and minds of people… but if necessary, we will confront evil with force - our police, our army and our air force.”

Speaking to reporters in New York late Thursday, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon took note of the focus on terrorism in Zardari’s speech. He also alluded to the India-Pakistan joint statement after talks between Manmohan Singh and Zardari on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Wednesday in which the two sides agreed to jointly combat terrorism.

Referring to US forces’ incursions into Pakistani territory while targeting Al Qaida and the Taliban, Zardari urged the Western powers not to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty in the fight against terrorism.

“Violating our nation’s sovereignty is not helpful in eliminating the terrorist menace. Indeed, this could have the opposite effect,” Zardari contended.

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