Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kashmir Not On Agenda In Mohali : Pak Info Minister

Islamabad, March 29: Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers will only be watching the Mohali match  and will not discuss the Kashmir issue, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan clarified  on Monday night after a cabinet meeting, The Dawn reported.

Briefing newsmen,  Firdous Ashiq Awan said that primarily the prime minister was going to watch the Pakistan-India cricket match, and `not to discuss the Kashmir issue`, but she hastened to add that the two prime ministers could discuss anything on the occasion.

In reply to a question, she said the Foreign Office and Pakistan`s High Commission in New Delhi were working to fully utilise the occasion for improvement of relations between the two countries.

She said that the occasion would be utilised to bridge the communication gap between the leaderships of the two countries through this gesture of goodwill of the Indian government.

She said Prime Minister Gilani believed that the invitation was a significant way forward on the diplomatic front and the government had accepted it in the larger interest of the country.

Since Friday when Prime Minister Singh extended the invitation to Gilani to join him at Mohali to witness the World Cup semi-final, political pundits, in particular, and the media, in general, have been terming it a major development towards friendly relations between the two countries. After the Mumbai attacks, India had suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan.

Asked if the government had taken the security establishment (read Pak Army)  and opposition parties into confidence before accepting the invitation of the Indian prime minister, the minister said all stakeholders had been taken on board.

But the Awami National Party, which is part of the federal government, was not sure if the prime minister had talked to the leaders of other political parties about his trip to India.

The minister said because of limited availability of tickets for the match, the government could not take as many people to Mohali as it wanted.

Everything will become clear by Tuesday about the composition of the prime ministerial entourage and the issues which could be discussed during the meeting, she said.

Ms Firdous said the keenness to accompany the prime minister was such that she too would have missed the trip had she not been information minister. The government was still trying its best to accommodate more people, but it all depended on how many guests the Indian authorities allowed, she added.

She refused to get into the controversial statement made by Interior Minister Rehman Malik that  intelligence agencies were monitoring members of the national cricket team so that match-fixing didn`t happen.

“Once head of the federal cabinet, Prime Minister Gilani, is himself going to India to buck up our team, the statement by one minister shouldn`t demoralise the players,” she said.

Firdous remarked that she believed that there was a need to encourage people-to-people contacts and the government had directed the Pakistan High Commission for ensuring visas for journalists, but the Indian authorities declined by saying that there was lack of space.

However, she said that the Indian side had welcomed the visit of all those having match tickets.


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