Peace in region depends on resolution of Kashmir issue: Tarar

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21 (APP): President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar said that peace and security of the region entirely depended on the resolution of Kashmir issue. Talking to newsmen here on Saturday after the inaugural session of a two-day conference of D-8 countries, the President welcomed the initiation of bilateral talks between Pakistan and India for resolving disputed issues including core issue of Held Kashmir. To a question about Nawaz-Vajpayee meeting, he said that it is a good sign that Kashmir issue is on the top of the agenda. The President underscored the importance of dialogue and said that it was a must for resolving disputes. Rafiq Tarar said that Kashmir issue being a top of the agenda is a proof that India too has accepted Kashmir as a dispute. Tarar made it very clear that "Pakistan will continue its political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiris on all fora".

Pak- China strategic co-operation critical for peace in South Asia: Nawaz ISLAMABAD, Feb 21 (APP): Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said, Pak- China bilateral strategic co-operation was critical for preservation of peace and stability in South Asia. The Prime Minister was talking to Gen. Chi Haotian Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission and Chinese Defence Minister who called on him here. "China viewed the Pak-China friendship as time-tested and a permanent feature of Chinese foreign policy," Haotian told the Prime Minister. Chinese Defence Minister flew into the Federal Capital Friday night to begin his 5-day visit to Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif briefed him on security and nuclear issues confronting South Asia and highlighted the cooperation between two sides in different areas.

Nawaz Sharif reiterates right of self-determination for Kashmiris LAHORE, Feb 21 (APP)- Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Saturday said the people of Kashmir must be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination as pledged to them by the international community. Speaking at the banquet hosted by him in honour of the Indian Premier here at Lahore Fort, he said the solution of Jammu and Kashmir issue is root cause of tensions between the two countries. "it cannot be wished away and has to be resolved consistent with their international obligations, justice and equity". Nawaz Sharif said they must focus on the root cause of tensions in South Asia."It is the disease and not the symptom that we have to address, only then can the healing process begin. Otherwise, he said they will continue to remain trapped in this situation of conflict. It is with this realization that they have to resolve the Kashmir dispute which, since our emergence as independent states, has been at the core of our differences. Nawaz Sharif said as nuclear weapons states, Pakistan and India need to put in place credible confidence building measures for the avoidance of conflict. In this unstable environment, it is incumbent on both our countries to work towards restraint and stabilization in the spheres of nuclear and conventional armaments, he added. He said "We are witnessing a new upsurge of freedom, democracy and unprecedented economic growth in many regions of the world. This is the age of free markets where nations compete not for power but for growth and development".

Text of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speech at Banquet

LAHORE, Feb 21 (APP): Following is the text of speech delivered by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a banquet he hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Saturday. "Mr.Prime Minister, Distinguished guests from India, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is spring time in Lahore.The chill of winter is fading away.We are delighted,Mr.Prime Minister that you are here with us to share the bounties of this gentle season so full of fragrance and flowers. Through the centuries this city of majestic monuments and exotic gardens has been witness to momentous events that have shaped the course of South Asian history.Not far from here lies buried the poet philosopher of Pakistan,Allama Iqbal,whose verses extolling the dignity of the human race continue to inspire us. The legendary city of Lahore represented the glory of our culture,heritage and traditions.We welcome you to this city.We are delighted to extended to you hospitality in Pakistan in keeping with the best Islamic traditions. Mr.Prime Minister, The past fifty years have seen war-devastated societies transform themselves from poverty to prosperity.No such miracle has visited our region.Others have reached Moon.We are still lost in the abyss of poverty.

Vajpayee wishes sustained talks to resolve Kashmir issue

LAHORE, Feb 21 (APP)- Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said here tonight that his country wanted to have sustained discussions with Pakistan on all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir. "As part of the composite dialogue process, we welcome it", he said while speaking at the Banquet, hosted in his honour by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at Lahore Fort. The Indian premier expressed his confidence that through their combined efforts, they will succeed in doing so, no matter how hard they have to work in achieving it. "My regret is that we have spent so much time in mutual bitterness. It is unworthy of two nations the size of India and Pakistan to have wasted so much time in mutual ill-will", he added. Vajpayee said the bus service between Lahore and Delhi is not a means only to ease travel from one country to another. The running of the bus between the two countries symbolises the desire of the people to improve relations and come together. The Indian Premier said "We have also discussed those areas of relationship on which we do not see eye to eye. That is only inevitable. As we seek to resolve issues, we have to be conscious that there is nothing which cannot be solved through goodwill and direct dialogue. That is the only path".

LAHORE, Feb 21 (APP)- Following is the text of Indian Premier Atal Behari Vajpayee's address at the Banquet hosted in his honour by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tonight. "Mr. Prime Minister, Friends, Sisters and Brothers,

As we break bread together, a new century and a new millennium knocks on our doors. Fifty years of our independence have gone by; On one side there is pride and on the other regret. Pride because both the countries have been successful in retaining their independence; but regret because even after fifty years we have not liberated ourselves from the curse of poverty and unemployment. I am grateful to you, Mr. Prime Minister, for hosting this banquet in such a historic location. It was in this magnificent fort that Shahjahan was born; it is here that Akbar lived for over a decade. My delegation and I are overwhelmed by the warmth of your welcome, and the gracious hospitality extended to us. Mr. Prime Minister, you have upheld the nobility of this fort and the tradition of the historic city of Lahore. On this occasion, I am reminded of the lines of the 11th century poet Mas`ud bin S`ad bin Salman.

"Shud dar gham `Lohur rawanam Yarab! Yarab! Ki dar arzu-e anam Yarab!"

(My soul goes out in longing for Lohur, O God! How I long for it)

Excellency, this is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan in ten years. I am delighted to be here. When I inspected the guard of honour and saw the beautiful panorama of the setting sun, I was overwhelmed by mixed feelings. It gave me joy that I was returning here after 21 years with the message of friendship. My regret is that we have spent so much time in mutual bitterness. It is unworthy of two nations the size of India and Pakistan to have wasted so much time in mutual ill- will. We have also discussed those areas of relationship on which we do not see eye to eye. That is only inevitable. As we seek to resolve issues, we have to be conscious that there is nothing which cannot be solved through goodwill and direct dialogue. That is the only path. As we approach a new millennium, the future beckons us. It calls upon us, indeed demands of us, to think of the welfare of our children and their children, and of the generations that are yet to come. I express my best wishes for your progress and prosperity; for the establishment of durable peace and cooperation between India and Pakistan".

Pakistan holding talks with India for sake of Kashmiris: Shujaat

LAHORE, Feb 21 (APP)- Interior Minister Ch. Shujaat Hussain has said that Pakistan is having dialogue with India only for the sake of Kashmiris, struggling for freedom from India. Talking to APP here on Saturday at the Wagha border, where he had gone to receive the Indian Premier Atal Behari Vajpayee, he said the main purpose of the Indo-Pak summit is to stop the killing of Kashmiri people. He said that "the talks between the heads of the governments would ultimately help stop blood-letting in the occupied territory". Shujaat said there is no question of compromise on the question of Kashmir. He said they have right to protest, but he added they should not doubt the commitment and sincerity of the Prime Minister and the Government of Pakistan.

Dialogue could melt complex issues: Indian newsmen

LAHORE, Feb 21 (APP)- Though complex issues confront the two nations, Indian newsmen covering the summit talks between Pakistan and India appear optimistic of a general 'headway' emerging from it. 'The necessary political will is certainly present at the highest level, while normalization of relations is a common desire at the peoples level. An atmopshere of mutual trust and respect suits the two nations.' This is the generalized opinion of newsmen interviewed by APP Saturday. Around 250 journalists -- Indian and other foreign correspondents - are now in the city in connection with coverage of the historic visit of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Besides, 150 Pakistani journalists are also covering the event. The common hope is that the two prime ministers will be able to lay the foundation for a dialogue, and talks could lead to resolution of the backlog of problems that have plagued Indo-Pak relations for half a century. Indian journalists interviewed include Anand Sahay, a noted columnist, Vinod Sharma of Hindustan Times, Vijay Naik of 'Sakal'- a Marathi daily from Bombay, Radha Vishanath of 'Deccan Chronicle' and Aroop Sen of 'Gamashakti' a Calcutta daily. Anand said "There is a certain degree of happiness and relief among the public in India over the holding of the summit in Lahore. Cooperative relations based on mutual trust is in the fitness of things." "Only good results could come from sustained dialogue," he stated, adding, "We must not, however, expect miracles from the summit." "We have fought three wars and instead of concentrating on economic development, have wasted our resources on unwanted pursuits," he said, adding "These talks should not give a feeling of a gimmick, as this will harm the renewed sense of understanding." On Kashmir, he said, "The dispute has led to three wars. India sticks to its stand that it is an integral part of India while Pakistan is firm and resolute that the issue be resolved by holding a plebiscite under United Nations' auspices."

Mushahid terms Vajpayee's visit breakthrough development

LAHORE, Feb 21 (APP)- Federal Information Minister, Mushahid Hussain Sayed Saturday said that Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan was a big development towards the eventual solution of all the outstanding problems between the two countries. "Leaders of both the countries will talk on all the outstanding issues including Kashmir," he said while talking to foreign and local newsmen at International Wagha border. He said that the leadership of India and Pakistan has exhibited political maturity by taking this initiative.