CNN-IBN?s Devil?s Advocate interviews Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Pakistan Foreign Minister


In an astonishing revelation that will create widespread surprise both in India and Pakistan, the Pakistani Foreign Minister has revealed that shortly before the Bombay bomb blasts Islamabad received written proposals from India which he described as "an advance" and "a step forward" in the agreed process of exploring options for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. In the first interview to an Indian television channel after the Bombay bomb blasts, Mr. Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri told CNN-IBN's Devil's Advocate in an interview to be aired on Sunday the 23rd of July at 8.30 p.m.

"You know it's not proper that I talk that openly but still ... we have received something from India. I think the back channels are working and I know what they are doing but I cannot speak more than what I have already said ... They (the proposals) are definitely an advance because for the first time we have received something in writing. So it's definitely an advance. (However) it would be inaccurate to say whether our two positions are beginning to merge but we are talking to each other...?

Mr. Kasuri was asked by Devil's Advocate whether this meant that both sides are now exploring options for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute and replied: "I can't deny that".

Mr. Kasuri was asked whether the Indian back channel proposals he was referring to were a response to President Musharraf's concepts of self-governance and joint management and whether they had allayed the disappointment the President had expressed at not receiving an earlier response and replied:

"The President was disappointed (earlier) but now we've got something from India and I'm very sorry I've probably said more than what I should have said ... Of course this is a step forward because if you won't respond to something how can you go forward?"

Commenting on the paradox that within a short time space there had been both the Bombay blasts and the back channel communication taking further the peace process and relieving General Musharraf's sense of disappointment, Mr. Kasuri said that this was "because the leaders of Pakistan and India both value the peace process".

The Pakistan Foreign Minister also said that he had high hopes that when the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan meet on the 31st of July in Dhaka for the SAARC Standing Committee they might agree on fresh dates for the postponed India-Pakistan foreign secretary talks: "I definitely think so and hope so. I would like that."

Earlier in the half hour CNN-IBN interview, conducted during the afternoon of Friday the 21st of July at his residence in Lahore, Mr. Kasuri refused to accept that Pakistan had failed to fulfil its January 2004 commitment to ensure that no part of the territory of Pakistan was used in any way to inflict terror on India. He said:

"You have the word of the President of Pakistan. You can't go any higher. The President himself has been attacked thrice. Would he be supporting the sort of people who are trying to kill him? The Prime Minister has (also) been attacked. There were 45 people killed in Karachi. Who was behind that?"

In the Devil's Advocate interview to be broadcast on Sunday the 23rd, the Pakistan Foreign Minister went out of his way to angrily suggest that the blame for the Bombay blasts lay with organisations within India and that the accusation that Pakistan was responsible for the blasts was an attempt to mislead and distort the investigations. He said:

"You know the biggest problem you now have in India? Let me give you advice in your own interest. Within thirty seconds of anything happening you already know it's happening from something based in Pakistan. Why don't you sometimes look at what your own newspapers are saying? I've been following your newspapers. I've (also) followed The Washington Post (and) what it's said about the Bombay blasts. Your own people are pointing fingers inwards. So don't (blame Pakistan). In fact you are misleading your police and you are misleading your investigating agencies ... and please don't try and distort the investigation by the police ... your own media is pointing accusing fingers at organisations within India."

In the Devil's Advocate interview Mr. Kasuri praised both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil for their initial restrained response. He claimed that both men had initially avoided blaming Pakistan and did not want the peace process derailed. Then Mr. Kasuri added: "What has happened three or four days later is actually a reaction to your own Indian domestic political compulsions."

In the CNN-IBN interview Mr. Kasuri was asked if, as a gesture of solid proof of Pakistan's commitment to stop all terror, Islamabad would give India direct access to interrogate Mehmood Azhar and Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and replied:

"You are asking very strange things. For example, we have not allowed the United States of America, which is our ally for the last fifty years, (such access) ... We are bending backwards to build peace and trust because we have not reached that level of trust (and) incidents are happening in Pakistan and in India. We need to go towards (that goal)."

In the same interview Mr. Kasuri was asked if the interrogation records of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed when he was detained in 2002 or documents taken from the Lashkar-e-Toiba offices when they were raided in 2002 could be made available to India as a way of building trust and replied:

"We need to build trust on lots of things ... I'm saying let's build trust and a stage will come when we will be able to conduct joint investigations for what happens in Karachi or Bombay ... I would rather that we move towards what you are saying. We will have to help each other (to get there)."

If you should in anyway quote from or refer to this press release please be sure to credit CNN-IBN and Devil's Advocate. Please also mention the Kasuri interview will be broadcast on Sunday 23rd at 8.30 p.m. and repeated on Monday the 24th at 10.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m.

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