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Yousuf Raza Gilani plays down India-Afghan strategic partnership

Wednesday, 5 October 2011 - 9:42pm IST | Place: ISLAMABAD | Agency: PTI

"Both (India and Afghanistan) are sovereign countries, they have the right to do whatever they want to," Gilani said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Wednesday sought to play down the strategic partnership agreement signed by India and Afghanistan, saying he did not think it would have any adverse impact on Pakistan.

"Both (India and Afghanistan) are sovereign countries, they have the right to do whatever they want to," Gilani said during an interaction with journalists on the sidelines of an official function this evening.

He was responding to a question on the agreement signed by the two countries yesterday.

Asked specifically if the agreement inked during Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to New Delhi would have any adverse effect on Pakistan, Gilani replied: "No, I don't think so. We are all in the same region and...we want to work together for peace and prosperity in the region. I think we should work together."

Responding to another question on whether the reconciliation process with the Taliban in Afghanistan was now dead, Gilani said: "Karzai said something else with me. In my view, he is of the view that there should be a meeting between me and him very soon."

He did not give details.

The strategic partnership agreement, especially a provision on India training and equipping the Afghan armed forces, has been viewed with concern by some Pakistani security analysts.

Pakistan has for long said that it will back an Afghan-led process for peace and reconciliation in the war-torn country.

At the same time, Pakistan has insisted that it wants a government in Kabul that will pay attention to Islamabad’s security concerns.

It has also sought to limit India's role in Afghanistan.

Responding to other questions, Gilani said Pakistan-US relations had seen "ups and downs" though things had started "getting better".

Relations between Pakistan and the US, which have been bumpy since the covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2, plunged to a fresh low after US officials accused the Inter-Services Intelligence of waging a proxy war in Afghanistan.

Asked whether he intended to hold talks with the Taliban, Gilani said his government had adopted a policy of "dialogue, development and deterrence".

He pointed out that the world community had not endorsed his government's decision to hold talks with militants in Swat and Malakand in the country’s northwest in 2009.

"Before military action we had dialogue and the world did not like it. We had the policy of dialogue; when that failed, we were left with no option. When the writ of the government was challenged, we were forced to resort to military action," he said.

Gilani contended that widespread protests against power outages in the country's most populous province of Punjab were being "incited by some people who were very worried" the ruling Pakistan People's Party would attain an "absolute majority" in election to the Senate or upper house of parliament in March next year.

"The opposition is all alone. And if they want any constitutional change (of government), they can bring a vote of no-confidence against me," he said.

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