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London : June 26, 2008
I wish to compliment Tehelka, its Editor in Chief Tarun J Tejpal and all those associated with organizing this two-day Summit conference on “India and Pakistan: Designing a New Future”. I also wish to extend a warm welcome to all the participants.
The moot offers a unique platform for an examination of Indo-Pakistan ties by distinguished public figures, thinkers, academia and intellectuals. Summit meetings like this provide a unique opportunity for a better understanding of the complex dynamics of the two countries relations and help in designing a new future for their peoples.
On behalf of the PPP and on my own behalf I welcome the Summit, compliment Tehelka for organizing it and pray for its success.
The Pakistan Peoples Party has been very consistent in advocating peace and stability in the region as critical to the well being of the over one billion of its people.
During two tenures of PPP in office, neither of our peoples or armies had to face a Kargil like situation, nor were there terrorist attacks on Indian targets such as the Bombay Blasts or the Indian Parliament blast.
It is not easy to keep the peace and simultaneously rein in the militants but the PPP government did so.
During the PPP government the Simla Agreement was signed between Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972. As a result of that agreement, India and Pakistan have not gone to full war although they were engaged in conflict.
When Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir was the Prime Minister the PPP worked with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to build on the spirit of Simla. The two governments signed the first major agreements since Simla. The agreement not to attack each other’s nuclear installations was one landmark agreement signed in 1988.
At the SAARC leaders’ summit at Islamabad in 1988, the PPP government in Pakistan proposed that we transform SAARC from a cultural organization into an economic one. As a result The South Asian Preferential Tariff Agreement was born.
In 1999 at the Indo Pak Parliamentarians Conference in Islamabad Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto proposed that India, Pakistan and all the countries of South Asia put aside their differences to create a common market to eliminate poverty, hunger, unemployment and backwardness.
Shaheed Mohtarma Bhutto visited India and participated in Conferences, like the one Tehelka has organized today, on Indo Pak relations and pleading for creating a common market through soft borders. The list is long and impressive.
The PPP believes that Indo Pak relations can and should be creatively re-discovered.
This requires making conscious decisions and deliberate choices.
It is a matter of great satisfaction that today our political opponents as well as the military establishment in Pakistan realize the importance of peace- for making or breaking nations.
The PPP therefore welcomed the India Pakistan dialogue undertaken some years ago to discuss open borders, trade and travel even when the government in Pakistan called us security risk.
It was politically tempting to reject the peace process of the previous military regime. But we did not because we believed that the future happiness of the people of South Asia was too important to be lost in an internal political battle in Pakistan.
Dangers and Pitfalls
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The journey has begun but we have a long way to go. There are dangers of the derailment of the peace process. Let us be aware of them.
Let us not forget that both our countries nearly came to war in 1999 in the icy glaciers of Siachen. Let us also remember that both our armies stood eyeball to eyeball in a yearlong confrontation following a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.
We know now that there is a consensus amongst the political parties of India and Pakistan, a consensus between our military and security establishments that peace must be established.
But we also agree that a very serious danger to the peace process comes from militants and terrorists.
Therefore the challenge for us is to dismantle the militant cells so that they cannot hold the foreign policies of two independent nations hostage to their acts of terrorism.
The PPP therefore welcomed the decision by both India and Pakistan to work together on anti-terrorism efforts and to share information in this regard as a positive step forward.
We have to protect innocent people of our countries by both Pakistan and India working for the dismantlement of militant groups, the elimination of terrorism and the promotion of interfaith tolerance and harmony.
Trade instead of Conflict
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The PPP has made trade, not conflict with India, a top priority of its relations with India. After sixty years of independence and mutual acrimony we must now pledge an end to war, terrorism, death and destruction.
Sixty years of freedom is a long enough period to mature us to change our direction dramatically.
India and China both have a dispute but they do not go to war against each other.
We must learn from this model to develop our own relations.
One of the ways that we tried to re-invent the relationship between Pakistan and India was to involve military and intelligence personnel in the process.
That is why the PPP government established intelligence-to-intelligence contact with a view to help formal diplomacy.
Additionally, the Party also proposed the induction of retired military officials in the track two discussions.
Prime Ministers Rajiv Prime Minister Gandhi and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto established hotline between the military headquarters of our two countries. It has played no small part in preventing escalation of tensions between the two countries.
Fighting Hunger and Disease
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Both India and Pakistan should join hands to fight hunger and disease.
We should join hands to fight discrimination and bigotry against minorities.
We should join hands in a political and economic condominium that could be a model to the entire world of what the future hold.
These are the real issues that confront our masses.
The PPP believes that a very important thing for Pakistan is to have civilian control over the military. It is important that the civilian government and the Parliament have the upper hand in devising and conducting foreign policy.
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 proved in America, civilian control of the military is essential to the safety and development of a country.
The Cuban Missile Crisis showed that if the American military had had its way, the Americans would have made war against the Soviets. President John F. Kennedy prevented a war that could have killed 100 million Americans.
Bringing peace between our two countries will help make the civilian government take full control over the military in Pakistan.
The coalition partners in Pakistan have signed a Charter of Democracy that commits them to a framework of peace and justice for the people of Pakistan. It commits both our parties to friendship and peace with India.
A democratic Pakistan standing next to a democratic India and a democratic Afghanistan can start to turn around our part of the world.
On the issue of Kashmir, we must make a viable peace. This is a solvable problem that must not take further lives.
Pending a final settlement, we agree with the statement of your Prime Minister supporting an autonomous Kashmir running much of its own affairs. A Commission can be established between the two countries and the leaders of Kashmir themselves to work out what should be done in foreign and defense affairs.
While working out the solution to Kashmir we should not allow slow progress on it to be an obstacle to work in other cooperative matters.
Ways to strengthen relations:
There are several ways to strengthen our relations.
One important way is through economic integration and trade, business cooperation, media exchanges, transportation links between our two countries, the energy requirements of our economies, sports and entertainment events, cooperation in the Information Technologies, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, in medicine, education and agriculture.
The total two way trade between the US and China before 1972 was just $25 million indirect trade mostly through Hong Kong. In 2007 US-China direct trade was over $200 billion. That trade and other factors make China the huge economic engine it has now become.
That is the kind of future that awaits our people if we have the sincerity of purpose to reinvent our relations.
A start has been made with the bus journey between Srinagar and Muzzafarabad and the train between New Delhi and Lahore. We must increase those links, eliminate visa restrictions and remember that when we can travel between France and Germany – two old enemies – the train or bus does not stop any more for police and customs checks.
Energy resources are vital to our economies. The closest readily accessible energy source of hydrocarbons is in Central Asia. It was the PPP government of Shaheed Mohtarma Bhutto that implemented Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s proposal to build Gwadar Port in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, to bring Central Asian gas and oil to world markets through Pakistan.
The PPP government also agreed to build pipelines for oil and gas to be pumped across Pakistan to India.
The PPP government intends to make these plans a top priority –to bring these gas and oil pipelines from Central Asia to the people of Balochistan in Pakistan and to export them to India. It is vital to our economies and our industry.
The political instability of Afghanistan hampers trade with Central Asia. Therefore controlling terrorism in the tribal areas of Pakistan is a priority for the people of Pakistan and the government. A peaceful and democratic India, Pakistan and Afghanistan can bring enormous benefits in this program of bringing new energy resources to all of our economies.
We have all seen the excitement of our peoples when one sport team visits each other’s countries. These exchanges must happen frequently without governmental interference. Let the fans from Lahore come and cheer their teams playing in Bombay or Calcutta or visa versa.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan controlled Kashmir Sardar Attique has welcomed investment from all regions and religions of the world, including from Indian controlled Kashmir. He has offered gas and electricity across the Line of Control. Discussing such proposals can help bring us closer.
The entertainment industry is huge in India and growing in Pakistan. There must be no boundaries between our countries in this area too.
Both of our countries exploded nuclear devices in May 1998. We have now proved to each other and the world that we are firmly in the group of elite countries that have nuclear weapons. We do not have to prove our military prowess anymore.
We do need to continue investing in an area that brings little economic return to our peoples and countries.
Let us turn our investment and co-operation towards the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Let us serve our people by bringing peace to our land that we all love!
Thank you for the honour of speaking before you.