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Deactivate forward air bases, Pak tells India

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Last updated on: December 30, 2008 13:21 IST

Pakistan on Tuesday asked India to send 'positive signals' by deactivating its forward air bases and relocating ground troops to peace time positions, saying it is ready to cooperate in probing Mumbai attacks and bringing perpetrators of the crime to justice.

'If the forward airbases activated by India are deactivated, it will be a very positive signal,' Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a brief address on state-run PTV.

Similarly, he proposed that ground forces, which have been deployed to the forward posts, should be relocated to peace time positions.

'This will be a positive signal and regional tensions will reduce,' he said, adding a 'good atmosphere will be created to take things forward.'

Qureshi said there had been certain developments in the past 48 hours that 'Pakistan thinks augur well for the situation.'

One of these developments was External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's comment that India had not given Pakistan any ultimatum with regard to the Mumbai terror attacks, he said.

'Neighbours can't solve problems through ultimatums. Problems can be solved only through dialogue in a peaceful atmosphere,' Qureshi said.

Another positive development was the direct contact over the weekend between the Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries as this will also help reduce tensions, he said.

Qureshi said Pakistan would cooperate fully with India once it shared evidence and information regarding the Mumbai attacks.

'The government of Pakistan wants to assure (India) that when the evidence reaches us our approach from day one was constructive and desirous of peace and we will make all efforts to get to the bottom of the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice,' Qureshi said.

He said India still had not shared any evidence on the Mumbai attacks with Pakistan. '

'The basic reason for this is that their investigation is yet to be completed. As soon as their investigation is completed, they will share evidence with us,' he added.

Expressing Pakistan's desire to cooperate with India, Qureshi said: 'Direct contacts and diplomatic channels must be kept open' and the two sides should not ignore the importance of dialogue.

'The peace process is important for both countries. We have always wished that we could sit at the table and understand each other's positions and take things forward,' he said.

'Pressures and coercion between neighbours don't solve problems. They worsen matters and should be avoided. They will benefit only those who carried out (the Mumbai attacks) to spark tensions and put regional peace at stake.'

Qureshi also said: 'Geography has made us neighbours and we must learn to live as good neighbours.'

He said Pakistan was grateful to the effort launched by China to defuse tensions with India. Beijing despatched Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei to Islamabad for talks with the top Pakistani leadership, including President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

India has blamed Pakistan-based elements, including the banned Lashker-e-Tayiba terror group, for the Mumbai attacks that killed over 180 people.

India has asked Pakistan to crack down on these elements but Islamabad has said it cannot push forward its own investigation till New Delhi shares evidence and information on the terrorist incident.

Qureshi praised China, saying Beijing had backed Pakistan's 'approach of constructive engagement' and made it clear that conflict is not in the interest of anyone.

China had also backed Pakistan's proposals to send a high-level delegation to India to defuse tensions and for a joint investigation of the Mumbai incident.

The Chinese and US governments too had been in touch with India and Pakistan to de-escalate the situation in the region. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had spoken to Zardari on phone over the past two days to help defuse situation, Qureshi said.

Senior Pakistani officials too held meetings with their US counterparts in Washington and presented the country's view on the situation that had arisen after the Mumbai attacks.

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