‘I don’t want to look at it as your issue and my issue. We’ve outlived our older mindset’

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Ever since she took over as foreign minister of Pakistan in July 2011, Hina Rabbani Khar has helped steer shifts in the country’s policies on both its eastern and western fronts. The Pakistan government has renewed engagement with traditional foe India on various levels, trade being the most significant. On Afghanistan, it has drawn the line for the American engagement. In a conversation with Kunal Majumder, Khar speaks on Pakistan’s changing relationship with these two countries and more.

Engaging Khar wants more dialogues
Engaging: Khar wants more dialogues Photo: Reuters

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has accepted the invitation to come to Pakistan but he has also said he will be visiting only if something substantive comes from his trip. How do you see this in respect to Indo-Pak relations?
Pakistan has always maintained that for the betterment of Indo-Pak relations, it is important firstly to better the environment in which the dialogue process is going. We need to ensure that issues considered unsolvable be solved only through dialogue.

We have been seeing the growing assertiveness of the Pakistan parliament on foreign policy matters. Do you think the army will accept the growing civilian role in framing foreign policy?
Pakistan’s reality has changed very fast. Questions that may have been pertinent 20 years ago are misplaced today. The parliament is not being assertive; rather, it is taking its rightful place that it was never accorded before. As for the army, they are part of the government of Pakistan. We should not look at them as a separate entity.

What about the issue of dealing with the Taliban? Is the Army on the same page as the government?
Like I said, the army is a part of the process. The military solution in Afghanistan did not yield the desired result even after 10 years. The consensus now emerging at the world level is that solution can only come through reconciliation and dialogue. Currently, what is most important is the intra-Afghan dialogue. Not dialogue between Pakistan and Afghanistan, or the US and Afghanistan, nor India with them. Afghans will put their full force behind an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, Afghan-driven process, and Pakistan will support that. But please don’t expect us to take an initiative which is not owned and led by the Afghan people. All of us have to respect Afghan sovereignty. We have to respect them to chart out the way forward rather than expect them to follow a charted-out way.

In his meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, Manmohan Singh has asked Pakistan to take action against Hafiz Saeed. Your views?
We have always maintained that if anyone has any evidence against Saeed that can stand in a court of law, then it should be provided to us. Beyond that, I don’t see what purpose it will achieve to make it a public debate. We are committed to pursuing a track of cooperation between the two nations. Pakistan has taken important steps in improving trade relations with India. We see an environment where, at least at the leadership level, there is reciprocity. These are good signs not only for Pakistan and India but also for South Asia.

On the pending issues between India and Pakistan, which is the most doable?
I don’t want to look at it as “your issue” and “my issue”. After 60 years of trying to do so unsuccessfully, we have been able to put the issue of bilateral trade on the table. We have even moved forward from our stated positions. While there are complicated issues like Sir Creek, Siachen and Jammu and Kashmir that can be resolved on the dialogue table, there are others that are not so complicated. So why can’t we have a serious go on the less complicated issues. National vision is important to us and will remain so. But a common vision for the region can take you forward. I’m going to take a lot of strength from the fact that as a country, Pakistan has sent a very strong message that we are willing to do business in a different mode. We are not going to be bogged down by an older mindset.

Kunal Majumder is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka. 
kunal@tehelka.com

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