Need to look beyond stereotypes, says Pakistan envoy

Kolkata, Dec 30 : Observing that India's "negative public perception about Pakistan" was a big obstacle, outgoing Pakistani envoy Salman Bashir Monday called for resuming engagement process between the two countries, instead of "remaining mired in stereotypes".

"Old hackneyed phrases that form history of Indo-Pakistan diplomatic story is a fact, and I don't want to sound dismissive of that," he said.

"We need to revisit and proceed on a basis that is pragmatic instead of remaining mired in stereotypes of each other," the outgoing Pakistan high commissioner in India told media persons here.

Addressing the media after meeting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bashir claimed that "negative public perception in India about Pakistan" was the biggest obstacle, but assured that his country was working towards developing ties with India both at the central and provincial level.

"It will be our constant effort to work both at federal level and at state/provincial levels."

"The government and people of Pakistan desire to forge friendly, cooperative and neighbourly relations with India. We cannot hold back, history and life do not allow that. We all have to go forward with clarity in vision and foresight to build cooperative relations with an eye on the future," he said.

He said the recently held meeting at the level of Directors General of Military Operations (DGMO) as well as those between the two border forces of the countries have been fruitful and will go a long way in improving the ties.

The envoy called for increased exchanges in the fields of culture, media, education and trade among other matters between the two countries.

"While we have expressed sincere desire for better relations, sometimes the ground realities appear to be contrary and that is where media has to play an important role," said Bashir.

Admitting that Pakistan has several pressing issues of its own, including economy and militancy, Bashir emphasised on the need for having a friendly neighbour.

"There are issues which both India and Pakistan need to resolve peacefully. There are issues on which we have differences and others where we have convergences."

"Pakistan has several pressing issues like economy, energy, militancy, terrorism, and we are dealing with them. But if we want to develop economically we need to have a friendly neighbour and I suppose that is the requirement of every nation," added Bashir.

Asserting that a change of regime in India will not adversely affect the mutual relations, Bashir refused to comment about Bhataiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi becoming India's prime minister.

"Pakistan has respect for every leader of every political party representing India and it will not be appropriate to comment about India's politics which is its internal matter," added Bashir.

--IANS (Posted on 30-12-2013)

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