Dec 26, 2008

World - Pakistan says it wants friendly ties with India

Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s civilian leadership on Sunday reiterated its desire for friendly relations with India and said it would not allow the country to be used for terrorist activities. It also kept up assertions that it was prepared to respond to any military strikes by India.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan “wants good relations with all its neighbours, including India and Afghanistan, and will never allow its soil to be used against any country by terrorists or non-state actors.”

Mr. Gilani said Pakistan condemned the Mumbai terror attacks in the “strongest terms” and recalled that the government had offered to cooperate with New Delhi in the investigation.

He was speaking in Naudero, the hometown of the assassinated Pakistan People’s Party leader, Benazir Bhutto, in the Sindh province ahead of the first anniversary of her December 27 assassination.

Significantly, Mr. Gilani sought world help in defusing the current tension between the South Asian neighbours. “We urge the world to help defuse the situation,” he said.

But Mr. Gilani, who was speaking to journalists after visiting Benazir’s grave at Garhi Khuda Buksh, also said that if war was thrust upon Pakistan, “there should be no doubt that the whole nation, the political leadership and the armed forces will stand united to defend the country.”

Separately, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood, told journalists in his hometown Multan that “we are the torch-bearers of peace and remain committed to our desire for peace.”

Asked if war could be ruled out, the Foreign Minister said: ‘If you are asking me, I am not ruling out anything. But if war is imposed, we will respond to it like a brave, self-respected and self-esteemed nation.”

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission here said it had received no word from the Pakistan government about the Indian national that intelligence agencies claimed to have arrested from Lahore in connection with a car bomb that killed a woman in the city on Wednesday.

Pakistani media said the arrested man, whose name was given out as Satish Anand Shukla, had identified himself as Munir. They reported that intelligence agencies claimed he was a resident of Kolkota and had earlier worked at the Indian High Commission in London.

Geo Television said he had been arrested with two others, but there is no official confirmation of any arrests. According to media reports, the man was said to be carrying three fake Pakistani identity cards and “explosives” on his person. He is said to have told Pakistani authorities that he had three accomplices in Pakistan and they had planned to carry out attacks against the country’s Christian community on Christmas-eve.

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