Pak for just settlement of Kashmir issue

Islamabad: A "just and equitable settlement" of the Kashmir dispute is a priority for Pakistan as it will open new avenues for cooperation with India, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said today.

Gilani made the remarks during a meeting with former Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, who has appointed Pakistan`s new High Commissioner to India. He directed Bashir to pay "special attention to improving relations" with India and seeking the resolution of outstanding issues like the Kashmir dispute.

"A just and equitable settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute was a priority which would open new avenues for mutually beneficial cooperation between Pakistan and India," Gilani was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his office.

Gilani also expressed confidence in the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who he said is "a man of peace". Incidentally, Singh had called Gilani "a man of peace" last year during the SAARC summit.

Pakistan attaches "high priority to promoting regional peace, security, prosperity and stability", he said.

Bashir was recently designated as Pakistan`s next High Commissioner to India, and is expected to replace the current incumbent, Shahid Malik, next month.

Gilani expressed satisfaction at the work of Bashir, especially the "successful implementation of Pakistan`s regional policies with a view to improving relations with all neighbours" and strengthening cooperation in the greater Asian neighbourhood aimed at promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in economy, trade and energy.

Since the two countries resumed their peace process after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, they have taken several steps to normalise relations.

Following Commerce Minister Anand Sharma`s recent visit to Islamabad, the Pakistan government approved a move to switch over to a negative list regime for trade, paving the way for giving India Most Favoured Nation-status by the beginning of next year.