Pakistan committed to granting India MFN status: FO

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Pakistan on Thursday reiterated its resolve that India would be given the Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) status after completing the internal review process; however, the review will take time. Foreign Office spokesperson Moazzam Ahmad Khan, while replying to media queries during weekly briefing, was unable to confirm that the government would grant the MFN status to India by December 31 this year.

"The government of Pakistan has decided in principle to grant the MFN status to India as soon as the currently undergoing internal processes to be completed," the spokesman said, when asked whether the decision to finally grant the MFN status will be taken by December 31 this year.

About Pakistan-India relations, he said that the ties between the two have been improved substantially in the outgoing year and the Foreign Ministers of both India and Pakistan held useful dialogue in which they expressed the resolve to settle all the outstanding issues through dialogues. The spokesman also avoided to comment on a media report about All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leadership that they had met with Indian spy agency, RAW chief before the recent visit to the country.

He, however, said that Pakistan considers Kashmir as a disputed territory and it remains committed to the just and peaceful resolution of the dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions and the aspirations of Kashmiri people. Answering another question regarding the recent Russia-India arms deal, he said that anything which may initiate nuclear or conventional arms race will not augur well for the future of the region.

Moazzam said that the sixth round of expert level talks on conventional CBMs took place in New Delhi on Thursday and the basic objective was to review the implementation of existing CBMs, including cease-fire along the LoC, and exchange ideas to further advance the CBM process. The spokesperson further said that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will visit Saudi Arabia on January 1, 2013 on the invitation of her Saudi counterpart to hold talks with the Saudi leadership to further strengthen the existing bilateral relations.

About Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project, the spokesman said Pakistan is an energy deficient country and it is in our own interests to explore cheap means of energy. "We attach importance to the gas pipeline project and the decision in this regard will be taken in the best national interest", he said, adding that President Zardari's visit to Iran is on the cards and currently both the countries are in the process of working out mutually convenient dates for his visit.

Commenting on the repeated US drone strikes in the country's tribal areas, he said that Pakistan considered drone attacks to be counter-productive, illegal, a violation of the country's sovereignty and against international laws. However, giving an overview of the Pak-US ties in 2012, he said that the ties between the two countries were in the upward trajectory after recovering from various ups and down during the outgoing year. "There had been ups and downs in the bilateral relations between the two (Pak and US) in the year 2012 but now these are witnessing an upward trajectory after the resolution of issues", he added.

He said that the two countries have repeatedly stated to further strengthen their multifaceted relations, adding that the leadership of Pakistan and the US had made it clear that long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan is in our common interest and the two sides are trying to evolve a common approach. About Afghanistan and Taliban talks in Paris, he said that Pakistan has repeatedly said that it supports any initiative that may lead to an all inclusive political reconciliation, which is led and owned by Afghans.

To another query about the recent terrorist attack on Peshawar airport and the involvement of the foreign militants in the attack, the spokesman said that Pakistan has taken up the issue with its friendly countries, adding that terrorism and extremism remain a paramount concern to Pakistan.

"We are putting in all possible efforts to address this menace. Terrorism is a global phenomenon and we are interacting with different friendly countries to collectively wipe out the threat posed by terrorism", he added. Furthermore, the spokesman also highlighted the efforts of Pakistan diplomacy during the year 2012, saying that Pakistan had good interaction with Russia this year. About President Putin's visit, he said that Pakistan's invitation to the Russian President was still pending and he (Putin) had also invited President Zardari to visit Moscow and the two sides are working on mutually convenient dates for the visit.

About the meeting of the Oversight Board for Strategic Export Controls last week, he said that Pakistan, being a responsible country, is committed to ensure the safety and control of sensitive matters and technologies. He said that the meeting reviewed the measures taken by the government in this regard so far and discussed concrete steps to further strengthen the export controls.

The spokesman said Pakistan will assume the rotational presidency of the UN Security Council on January 1, 2013, adding that the country's mission in the United Nations has chalked out a comprehensive programme for debates on various important issues.

About relations with Islamic world, he said that in 2012, Pakistan ties have further strengthened with Muslim countries as well as the Middle East states and the holding of D-8 Summit was a grand finale of this year. About foreign observers for the upcoming general elections, he said that Pakistan has no problem with the international agencies to come and observe elections in the country. However, at the end of the day, it would be the decision of Election Commissioner and the caretaker government, he added.

To a question about publication of Pakistan's map allegedly without Kashmir by Daily Business Recorder on a supplementary page in its edition on December 25, the spokesman said that the official maps of the UN also show Kashmir as a disputed territory.

"I cannot take responsibility for Business Recorder, we would definitely call them and bring this to their notice, this is not something insignificant, in fact it is very serious...I hope that they would take note of this discrepancy", he added. He said that Pakistan is very clear on the disputed status of Kashmir, as it is also recognised as a disputed territory by the UN, in fact the whole international community regards Kashmir as a disputed territory.

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