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Took up trade to transform ties with India: Gilani

Islamabad: Pakistan`s current administration took up the issue of normalising trade with India, which previous governments had been unwilling to touch, as part of measures to transform ties between the two countries, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said.

"Normalising trade with India has been an issue that no previous government wanted to touch, but we decided to look at this issue from a purely national and regional perspective," Gilani said.

Describing Pakistan`s relationship with India as "stable and peaceful", Gilani told a convocation ceremony at the National Defence University yesterday: "We have tried to transform this relationship by approaching it in a positive rather than in a traditional manner".

The premier said Islamabad had "resumed full dialogue" with New Delhi and is discussing "all issues including Siachen, Sir Creek, counter-terrorism, water issues, and the most important of all, the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir".

Gilani said there was now greater emphasis on nuclear strategy and conflict resolution after the "nuclearisation of both Pakistan and India".

India and Pakistan resumed their dialogue process last year after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which were blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group. Since then, the two sides have taken a series of steps, especially in trade, to put their relations on an even keel.

The Foreign Secretaries of the two sides will meet in New Delhi next month to review the dialogue process and this will be followed by a meeting of the Foreign Ministers in Islamabad. The dates for the two meetings, to be held next month, are yet to be finalised.

Prior to these meetings, the two countries will hold talks on the Sir Creek boundary dispute in New Delhi during June 18-19. The latest round of talks between the Defence Secretaries on the military standoff on Siachen glacier, held in Rawalpindi during June 11-12, ended without any forward movement.

The two sides only agreed to meet again to discuss the issue on dates to be decided through diplomatic channels.

Gilani referred to Pakistan`s relations with other countries, including China and the US, during his speech and said the country had "undertaken a paradigm shift" by striving to make its neighbourhood `peaceful, stable and prosperous on the basis of peaceful co-existence`.

"For us the most important capital in the world is Kabul, and the government of Kabul is the most important partner. A peaceful, stable and sovereign Afghanistan is an absolute prerequisite for stability and peace in Pakistan," he told an audience that included top military officials, including the service chiefs.

Pakistan, Gilani said, is the "first to suffer at the hands of strife in Afghanistan and the first to benefit from peace in Afghanistan".

Pakistan believes the "solution of Afghanistan will have to come from within Afghanistan" and will have to be "led by the Afghans and owned by the Afghans", he remarked. Describing Pakistan-China relations as unique, he said the intensification of high-level contacts between the two sides is aimed at taking ties to new heights.

Gilani said Pakistan-US relations are "multi-dimensional and important" and Islamabad is "trying to have an open, transparent and mutually beneficial relationship" with Washington on the basis of national interests and in the light of recommendations made by Pakistan?s parliament for resetting the relationship.

Listing the challenges facing his government, the premier said Pakistan was forging its foreign policy to cope with a "complex and turbulent world" and working to revive its economy in the backdrop of a global recession.

The energy crisis has affected the pace of economic growth while efforts were being made for political stability at home because a country that is stable domestically is better positioned to achieve its foreign policy objectives, he added.

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