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Mumbai attacks not discussed with Holbrooke, says Pakistan

Stresses need for resolving Kashmir dispute for peace in the region

ISLAMABAD: On his first day of meetings with the Pakistani leadership here, U.S. Special Representative Richard C. Holbrooke heard that Pakistan would be better able to combat terrorism and militancy in its north-western frontier regions with “a calm” eastern front, and the need for resolving the Kashmir issue for peace in the region.

Without explicitly pushing for an expansion of his mandate to include India, Pakistan’s civilian leaders told the special envoy that “a regional” approach was required to deal with the issues of terrorism, militancy and extremism.

They stressed that American missile strikes and other incursions inside Pakistani territory were “counterproductive,” and urged the U.S. to hurry instead with proposed legislation for more non-military financial aid to Pakistan to spur economic development in the country, particularly its tribal regions. They also called for dialogue with “reconcilable elements” of the Taliban for peace in Afghanistan.

Contrary to expectation that the Mumbai attacks would figure in the discussions, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said “interestingly enough, in our interaction, [the] Mumbai [attacks] did not surface.”

The Minister virtually ruled out any move by Pakistan for the inclusion of India or Kashmir in Mr. Holbrooke’s mandate but said he had flagged the importance of good relations with India.

“Let us be very clear. His mandate is Pakistan, Afghanistan. Period,” Mr. Qureshi said in response to questions at a press conference after his meeting with the U.S. official.

“But having said that, I did point out that if Pakistan has to focus on its western front, a calm eastern front is in everybody’s advantage.” He thanked the U.S. for playing a “positive role in defusing tensions” with India after the Mumbai attacks.

Calls for early resolution

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who also met Mr. Holbrooke, urged that the Kashmir issue had “bedevilled” India-Pakistan relations for over six decades and called for an “early resolution of the dispute” to ensure lasting peace and stability in the region.

Mr. Holbrooke, who said as he arrived on Monday that he had come to “listen and learn the ground realities” in Pakistan, also met President Asif Ali Zardari as well as Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

According to official statements on the meetings, President Zardari emphasised the need for a “cohesive and integrated regional approach” to defeating extremism and terrorism.

Similarly, Mr. Gilani is said to have told Mr. Holbrooke that Pakistan would “like to engage with the U.S. to build a new global strategic consensus for peace, security and stability in the region.”

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