Dialogue essential to resolve Indo-Pak problems

Islamabad: Ahead of the Indo-Pak Home Secretary-level talks, President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday said that dialogue is essential to resolve the problems between the two countries.

"We are hoping to engage India in a new dialogue…

and we are hoping that India will respond as the largest democracy of the world to the youngest democracy," Zardari said.

"Dialogue is always the right direction. Whether it starts late or early, small or big, dialogue is always the right direction," he said in an interview to Al-Arabiya news channel.

Asked if he would visit India to give a push to the peace process, he said: "Let them (the talks) come up to a certain level. And even then, if the President goes, it won`t make a difference because it`s the Prime Minister and the Parliament that have to (decide). It`s a Parliamentary form of democracy here in Pakistan."

His remarks came ahead of a crucial meeting of the Home and Interior Secretaries of India and Pakistan in New Delhi on March 28-29 to mark the resumption of their stalled peace process stalled since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

The two sides are expected to discuss terrorism, counter-narcotics measures and humanitarian issues at the meeting.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said earlier this week that dialogue is the only way forward for the two countries as wars are not a solution to the problems that have bedeviled their relations for over six decades.

Responding to a question about US drone attacks in Pakistan`s tribal belt, Zardari told the channel that Islamabad is negotiating with Washington to get drone technology so that its armed forces could use the unmanned spy planes on their own.

On the issue of terror, he said there are various causes of terrorism, including poverty and an aggressive political mindset that advocates violence.

"I`ve always said it is the war of mindset. So in the mindset, everything makes a difference," he remarked.

Asked about US pressure to take on the Taliban in North Waziristan tribal agency, Zardari said Pakistani troops were already in the restive region and engaging as much as "we want to and can engage".

He added: "We cannot stretch too thin and too far."

Zardari also expressed concern at the political unrest in some countries of the Gulf region but ruled out the possibility of a similar situation in Pakistan.

Noting that there was "no comparison" between Pakistan and the other countries, he said: "I don`t think such political unrest can reach Pakistan as it is a different country that has a strong Parliament and a stable democracy."

He was of the view that the path of reconciliation should be adopted to resolve issues in countries affected by unrest.

Zardari recalled that his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, had talked about reconciliation in the Muslim world in her last book.

"So I think confrontation is not the answer, reconciliation is the answer in all the Muslim nations and the countries of the world. We feel concerned, we support the system as it is and we want to help, if we can," he said.

"In the present scenario in Bahrain, there should be a kind of understanding… people should not be provoked into any action," Zardari said.

Pakistan respects the Gulf Cooperation Council`s decision to dispatch troops to quell the unrest in Bahrain, he said.

He said that these are regional issues and not international ones and should be settled at the regional level.