CHANDIGARH: India and Pakistan should remain firm to not let the dialogue process get affected by "negative forces" and should encourage people-to-people contact and cultural exchanges to maintain normal bilateral relations, former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said today.
Addressing a function here and later replying to questions from the gathering, Kasuri said, "We should not allow ourselves to be hostage to those who do not want peace. If we have to defeat the terrorists and negative forces, both sides should stick to and remain firm that they will keep talking (to each other) no matter what."
"And I believe that if we give boost to bilateral trade, have liberal visa regime, encourage people-to-people contact, have more cultural exchanges and play cricket and other sports, we can defeat these negative forces or push them in a position where they will be rendered weak," he said.
Speaking on the topic 'Strengthening Relationship Between India and Pakistan', Kasuri, whose book "Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove" has hit the stands in India, recalled the 2005 India-Pakistan joint statement, which spoke of the irreversibility of the peace process.
Kasuri, who proceeded to Mumbai this evening after the function here to take part in his book launch function there despite Shiv Sena's opposition, said that in his book he has listed nine near war situations between the two nuclear neighbours including three major ones.
Asserting that it will be "sheer madness" if the two nations even think of going to war now, Kasuri, who was Pakistan's Foreign Minister between 2002 and 2007, said the two nations had witnessed biggest mobilisation since second World War nearly fifteen years back.
"For 11 months, we had 11 million soldiers standing eyeball to eyeball... No problem can be solved by war. Ultimately, one has to sit across the negotiating table. Now, only a mad person can think about going to war. Both nations have nuclear weapons, missiles, strike capabilities...
"We have to make it clear to them (negative forces) that we want to continue (talks). And the space for them will shrink," he said.
Kasuri was critical of the role which media, in particular electronic media, was playing in the context of India-Pakistan relations. "You have to bash India, you have to bash Pakistan. This is terrible. I think there should be a conference between Editors and TV anchors of the two sides and they should be asked what they want. Sometimes, politicians do not set the agenda, it's the media... I think some sponsor should bring Pakistani and Indian journalists together for this," he said.
He quoted French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, saying, "Napoleon had once said that one hostile newspaper is more to be feared more than two regiments of the armies. I would say that one negative news channel, which is running 24X7, is to be feared more than an entire core of the Army."
"I have in my book also talked about the role of electronic media and how I used the media to promote India-Pakistan peace process," he said. Referring to aggressive comments from both the sides against each other in the wake of border tensions in the recent months, Kasuri said both the Prime Ministers "must apply a gag order" against those in the establishment making inflammatory comments against each other and that only the two premiers should talk.
Further claiming that hard postures was not going to help solve any problem between India and Pakistan, he said, "Neither you can draw a red line nor can we... We have failed in so many wars and near wars to take away Kashmir territory from you and you have failed to take it away from us (PoK). We can't take it away from you and you can't take away from us what we have. So, should we keep sticking to this madness (sticking to hard postures of both sides)..."
"If we have normal relations, both countries will gain," he asserted. Kasuri batted for Pakistan inviting Hurriyat leaders and keeping them in the loop for any lasting solution to the Kashmir issue.
He said that "by involving Hurriyat, Pakistan's public opinion will be easily satisfied". He said that Pakistan's meeting Hurriyat leaders was to send a message across to the "people in Kashmir" that if any solution was to be found, the interests of all concerned were being watched. "...No solution to Kashmir can be found if Kashmiris reject it," he said.