Khar holds talks with civil,military leaders on India dialogue

Khar holds talks with civil,military leaders on India dialogue

Khar "consulted all stakeholders on foreign policy issues, including the resumed dialogue process with India" during a meeting held at the Foreign Ministry, an official statement said.

The meeting was "part of regular consultations", it said.

The statement did not give details of what transpired during the discussions or the names of those who attended the meeting.

According to media reports, the meeting was attended by ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Defence Secretary Syed Athar Ali, Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood and Interior Secretary K M Siddique Akbar.

Lt Gen Mohammad Asif from the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee's headquarters and Lt Gen Waheed Arshad from General Headquarters too attended the meeting, the reports said.

The meeting was held in the wake of a Cabinet meeting that authorised the Commerce Ministry to take steps for the "normalisation of trade relations between Pakistan and India".

Information Minister Firdous Awan had announced after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the Cabinet had unanimously approved a move to grant the Most Favoured Nation status to India.

However, a statement issued subsequently by the Foreign Office quoted its spokesperson Tehmina Janjua as saying that the Cabinet had only "unanimously decided in principle to according MFN to India, which both sides will have to work towards in further engagements by the Commerce Secretaries".

Foreign Minister Khar's meeting with the top civil and military officials is the first of a series of consultations the government plans to hold with stakeholders like the military on bolstering economic relations with India.

The government intends to use these consultations to take stock of the discussions held with India since the two countries agreed to resume their dialogue process in February this year.

The peace process was stalled for over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 64 years of independence, plays a dominant role in guiding foreign and security policy.

The government's flip-flop on the MFN issue has caused surprise as Information Minister Awan had said after Wednesday's Cabinet meeting that all stakeholders, including the military and defence institutions, were "on board" for the decision to grant India the MFN status.

Leading defence analysts like Lt Gen (Retd) Talat Masood too have said they believed Pakistan's military leadership had given the go-ahead for normalising trade relations with India.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on textiles Mirza Ikhtiar Baig told the Dawn newspaper that the entire business community, including chambers of commerce, had backed the government's move to grant the MFN status to India.

"The government's cautious move of liberalising trade with India is a welcome step," he said.