Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, spoke at length to Farhan Bokhari, the FT’s Pakistan correspondent, on June 12, 2009 about a host of issues including relations with neighbouring India, the US, the fallout from the Pakistan Army’s recent fight against Taliban militants in the northern Swat valley, and the challenge of eliminating extremism from the country.
FT: You have seen a statement earlier today by the Indian interior minister where he has announced the withdrawal of Indian military troops from the cities and towns of Kashmir. Do you find that encouraging?
Shah Mahmood Qureshi: That is certainly encouraging. They (India) have said not just a phased withdrawal of troops. They have also said that they want to rely more on police and other law enforcement agencies besides the army. That is a positive step that will ease the situation within occupied Kashmir. That’s a welcome sign.
If you look at the statement of P. Chidambaram, if you look at the statement made by the Indian minister of external affairs, if you look at the [Indian] prime minister’s speech in “lok sabha” (India’s lower house of parliament) and the Indian presidential address to the new parliamentary year, I think there is a new realisation dawning even in the Indian leadership that engagement is better than disengagement and there is a realisation that Pakistan is facing a terrorist threat on a regular basis.
I am sure they are reading the newspapers and watching the television that we have suicide attacks and bombings and innocent citizens are dying. What happened to people in Peshawar the other day, what happened in Lahore and Nowshera today, it is a common challenge, it is a regional challenge and we will have to pool in our resources to overcome this challenge. That realisation is now coming and they (India) are getting out of that phase where they would say: Pakistan should stop this and Pakistan should stop that. It is not just Pakistan. What happened in Mumbai, we have condemned that. But the point is, what is happening in Pakistan [where terrorism is growing].