Summit talks between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan should not take place without any “proper preparations”, says former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, adding the only way to end the post-Ufa deadlock is to begin secret back-channel parleys.
The secret talks should be conducted in the same way both sides very nearly finalised a formula for resolving the Kashmir issue between 2004 and 2007, he said.
Asserting that India and Pakistan should first remove the intense mutual “antagonism” to improve strained ties, he said a “gag order” must be imposed by their Prime Ministers against those in the establishment making inflammatory comments against each other.
Days after his book “Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove” hit the stands in India, Kasuri claimed the back-channel peace talks that almost culminated into its permanent settlement of the Kashmir issue around eight years ago had the endorsement of Pakistan military and ISI, asserting that it was time both sides “grow up” and resolve it.
Kasuri, who was Pakistan Foreign Minister between 2002 and 2007, called Narendra Modi’s invitation to Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony last year and seeking a meeting with him at Ufa as a positive signal in approaching the Kashmir issue.
“High-level meetings, summit level meetings should never take place without proper preparations. There was no homework done for Ufa. It is better that these meetings do not take place. I am in favour of shaking hands, smiling, even a cup of tea in front of cameras without serious talks,” Kasuri told. Modi and Sharif held talks in the Russian city of Ufa in July.
In his 850-page book, Kasuri details the contours of what he claimed “the possible settlement” of Kashmir issue which he said included its demilitarisation, self-governance and setting up of a joint mechanism through which people on both sides can cooperate with each other. There has been no authentication yet by the Indian side about Kasuri’s claim.
Kasuri said it took almost three years to persuade Pakistan Army and the ISI about the “settlement” on Kashmir and they as an “institution” decided to back it while claiming that the perception that the army does not want resolution of the lingering issue was not correct.
“I made sure that papers were delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari,” he said.
Talking about current state of ties between India and Pakistan, he said both sides must traverse the peace path and open unbounded opportunities for their people.
Referring to aggressive comments from both the sides against each other in the wake of border tensions in the recent months, Kasuri said both the Prime Ministers “must apply a gag order” and that only the two premiers should talk.
“They should ask people who know nothing to keep quite. It is not their business to talk,” he said adding “relationship of antagonism should be removed.”
Kasuri also hoped that Modi will adopt a pragmatic approach in resolving the Kashmir issue, rejecting apprehension in some quarters in Pakistan that he could adopt an aggressive attitude.
“I hope Modi’s desire to develop India economically will bring the pragmatism in his personality to the fore and help check a tendency among some elements in his party to please grass-roots support,” he wrote.
Ties have been strained between the two neighbours over border firing and a series of ceasefire violations. Talks between India-Pakistan National Security Advisors were canceled recently because of a dispute over the agenda. India wanted to discuss terror attacks and Pakistan insisted on raising Kashmir.