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Qureshi for “result-oriented” dialogue

Anita Joshua

ISLAMABAD: Hours after reiterating Pakistan's seriousness in mending fences with India, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi late Saturday night said he would accept an invitation for further talks only if New Delhi was prepared for a “meaningful and result-oriented” dialogue.

Responding to questions, Mr. Qureshi repeated, but in a muted fashion, his remarks on talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. However, asked whether he would accept Mr. Krishna's invitation to India for talks, he shot back saying he had no intention of going on a “leisure trip” if another open-ended engagement was all that New Delhi wanted.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan sought to call an end to the acrimony that marked relations with India over the past two days by making reconciliatory statements. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Mr. Qureshi were one in reiterating Pakistan's commitment to dialogue.

Fielding questions from the media in Pattoki in Punjab, Mr. Gilani said Pakistan wanted to continue the dialogue, and expressed confidence in New Delhi's sincerity in improving relations. Describing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an honourable man, Mr. Gilani said he was confident that his counterpart would live up to his commitment to discuss all issues and added that it was natural for India to have its own compulsions.

Separately, Mr. Qureshi maintained that Pakistan was serious about normalising ties with India. Addressing a meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, he referred to his engagement with Mr. Krishna on Thursday and said: “We agreed to embark on a sustained dialogue process. This is a good augury.”

Pointing out that India and Pakistan had been entangled in a “conflictual” relationship for too long, Mr. Qureshi said: “It is high time our two countries engaged with full sincerity of purpose to resolve all the bilateral disputes and made a new beginning of normal relations anchored in sovereign equality and mutual interest.”

He repeated the widely held belief that normal relations between the countries would have “far-reaching salutary effects” for all of South Asia and beyond. “Pakistan will do its utmost to make this happen.”

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