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'India can't become a global player without Pak'

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
June 02, 2009 10:55 IST
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Tariq Fatemi, former Pakistani ambassador to the United States and principal foreign policy adviser to erstwhile prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has urged New Delhi to lift the 'pause button' on the Indo-Pakistan composite dialogue, which was imposed after the Mumbai terror attacks.


In an interaction at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, Fatemi, said, "India is a large country, it is a major actor on the international scene, but I don't think India can play in the weight level and at a stage where it wishes and deserves to play, until it has good relations with Pakistan."


"The albatross hung around India's neck from all these outstanding issues we have inherited from the past," he argued, will not allow India to become a global player.


Fatemi reiterated, "There is virtual unanimity in Pakistan regarding the need to have good relations with India -- there is no political party, there is no grouping in Pakistan that would want to see confrontation and hostility with India."


Terming the re-election of the Congress and the return of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as 'a very positive development', the former diplomat added, "We are happy that India is going to have a strong and stable government."


"And, I hope and expect that they will lift the pause button imposed after the November Mumbai attacks and the normalisation process based on the composite dialogue process format -- that incidentally was introduced during the time Mr Nawaz Sharif was prime minister in 1998 --- can be resurrected."


Fatemi said that Sharif "has both privately and publicly spoken of the importance of good relations between Pakistan and India. In fact, in his conversations with some Indian delegations, he has gone far beyond what the Indians expected to hear when he spoke of even establishing a visa-free regime, abolishing trade restrictions and the two countries cooperating on a host of regional and international issues."


Urging the Barack Obama administration to use its good offices to call on both countries to resume the composite dialogue, he said, "I know many people in Washington are inclined towards regularly speaking on behalf of India and telling the Pakistanis, 'Don't' worry, India, is not a threat.'"


Fatemi said, "Instead of that, it would be far more productive if they were to simply encourage the two countries to remain committed to the normalisation process."


"For some reason -- and many of you who have followed the subcontinent will understand it -- certificates of good character, emanating from Washington, do not necessarily carry the degree of credibility that you may all imagine it to be," he said.


Fatemi also asserted that one of the challenges that Pakistan has to take on "is to learn to treat Afghanistan as an independent sovereign country, rather than an opportunity for Pakistan to extend its influence into Central Asia and the region."


"In other words," he explained, "the belief that Afghanistan provides a strategic depth to Pakistan in its confrontation with India needs to be abandoned."

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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