Pakistan welcomes mediation, pressure, facilitation, encouragement or any such other role of the United States and the rest of the international community in resolving the Kashmir issue, Khurshid M Kasuri, the Pakistani foreign minister, said in Washington on Thursday.
Kasuri told the Heritage Foundation, a non-governmental think tank, that the international community, particularly the US, is already playing a role -- whatever name is given to it -- in pushing India and Pakistan towards resolving the Kashmir issue.
He claimed that the US played a 'positive' role in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's latest offer of talks with Islamabad. "The US efforts were quite evident last year when India and Pakistan were on the verge of war and the US was running hither and thither to prevent a war, and for that we should be grateful," he said.
Kasuri, who has already met Vice-President Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice during his current US visit, said there is now an element of optimism in South Asia as a result of the renewed peace efforts.
Pakistan, he said, has decided it wants friendship with India, but will not tolerate hegemony. Pakistan, he added, needs US arms and spares in order to counter India. He claimed there are more fundamentalists in Indian Parliament than in Pakistan.
Suggesting that Islamic fundamentalism will end only when issues like Palestine and Kashmir are settled, which he said are left over from the colonial period, Kasuri said, "One way is to shut our eyes and hope it will go away. The other one is to try and meet the situation."
He said there can be no solution unless the aspirations of the people of Kashmir are taken into consideration.
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