Pakistan FM Hina Khar 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer )
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's most troubled foreign relationships have improved in recent months, its top diplomat said on Saturday, pointing to upcoming trade talks with New Delhi and broad agreement on regional security goals with Washington as evidence.
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Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in an exclusive interview with Reuters, said negotiations to normalize trade with India would allow progress on other issues between the two nuclear-armed South Asian rivals.
"I think it's broadly agreed that we need to make some simultaneous progress on these issues," she said.
Trade has long been tied to political issues between the neighbors, who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.
The hope is that an increase in trade will feed into wider trust between
the two countries and help them resolve major flashpoints, like the
disputed Kashmir region, although a solution to this problem has proved
intractable for decades.
"But there has been a great improvement in the environment," she said. "I think we can move forward."
strongly denied that Pakistan was not committed to finalizing Most
Favored Nation (MFN) status for India, as alleged by an unnamed Indian
government official on Friday, who said Islamabad was "backtracking" on
the issue in the face of domestic opposition.
absolutely no question of backtracking of cabinet approval of trade
normalization with India," she said. "I want to completely dismiss any
indication that there's any retraction on what we said."
announced it would upgrade India to a most favored nation on Wednesday,
a move that would help normalize commercial ties by ending heavy
restrictions on what India is allowed to export across the border.
announcement was trumpeted on both sides as a milestone in improving
relations shattered by attacks by Pakistan-based militants in Mumbai in
2008. Formal peace talks, known as the "composite dialogue", resumed in
Khar said the two countries' commerce secretaries would
meet in mid-November to hammer out the details of the trade agreement,
but that there was no lack of commitment to the agreement itself.
"The cabinet very clearly gave them a way forward, which is trade normalization with India," she said.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani also rejected the charges of backtracking in comments to reporters in Lahore on Saturday.
than one percent of India's merchandise exports are sold to Pakistan,
in terms of dollar value, but in September a joint statement pledged to
double bilateral trade flows within three years to about $6 billion.
peace between the two countries is seen as key to stability in the
South Asian region and to helping a troubled transition in Afghanistan
as NATO-led forces plan their military withdrawal from that country in
Khar said relations with the United States were also on the
mend, with "a complete convergence of stated interests" on Afghanistan.
would make us happier than a strong government in Afghanistan," she
said. "I look at the last few weeks, and relations with the U.S. have
been generally positive. It's basically the operational details to agree
The United States and its allies in Afghanistan have been
pressing Pakistan for years to tackle the Haqqani network, a powerful
insurgent group which says it owes allegiance to the Afghan Taliban, but
has traditionally been seen as close to Pakistan's spy agency.
denies supporting the Haqqani network and attributes its lack of action
against the group to the fact that its army is already overstretched
fighting Pakistani Taliban militants and others.
At an Istanbul
conference in early November focusing on stabilizing Afghanistan, a
senior US official said that Pakistani action against the Haqqani
network did not necessarily need to be military.
Instead it would
include "ensuring that intelligence doesn't go to the Haqqani network"
and "that they don't benefit from financial resources or flow of