India, Pakistan were very near to framework agreement on Kashmir

New Delhi: India and Pakistan were very near to a framework agreement on the Kashmir issue through back-channel talks during the Congress-led regime, former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said Wednesday, and suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should appoint a confidant for such talks.

Interacting with a select group of media persons here about his forthcoming book titled "Neither hawk, nor dove", Kasuri said the new governments in India and Pakistan can take forward the framework by giving it a new name-tag.

"Try hard as they may, they can't change it. Both states know each other's bottomline," he said.

Kasuri said the book has a chapter on the four-point Kashmir framework. "We were very near (to agreement)."

Kasuri, who was Pakistan's foreign minister 2002-07 and is a senior leader of cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said he had seen the negotiations on the framework from close quarters and witnessed the exchange of drafts.

"It went on for three years," he said.

Kasuri said the framework was such that the leadership on both sides thought they could convince the majority of their people as also vast sections of people in Kashmir.

He said former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger had used the term "balanced dissatisfaction" in terms of the Ukraine crisis, but India and Pakistan's back channel talks were trying to achieve more.

"We were trying to achieve more than balanced dissatisfaction," he said.

Kasuri said only top military and foreign office authorities from Pakistan apart from then president Pervez Musharraf were in the know of the framework.

"Manmohan Singh was equally secretive. No one wanted a negative spin," he said.

He said the book narrates "what we agreed on, what led to it, what pressures were there on us, what were we facing, what were we being told".

Kasuri said he had dealt with three Indian foreign ministers - Yashwant Sinha, Natwar Singh and Pranab Mukherjee - and had a continuous view.

He said only a few people can draw a complete picture of the Kashmir framework, including Musharraf, Manmohan Singh and Satinder Lambah, India's special envoy who was part of the back channel talks.

Kasuri said he wished Manmohan Singh had visited Pakistan in 2006 to sign an agreement on Sir Creek as it would have also paved the way for the agreement on Kashmir.

Speaking of the Kashmir framework, he said Indians wanted reciprocity on everything and their bottom line was that there would be no change in geographic frontiers.

He said Kashmiris did not want their state to be split.

According to a published account of the framework agreement, the first step was to make the Line of Control (LoC) just 'a line on a map'.

The second step was to strengthen local self-governments on both sides of the LoC.

The third step entailed creation of joint or cooperative institutions under the charge of Kashmiri leaders to coordinate policies on matters of common interest.

The fourth and final element was 'agreed withdrawal' of troops on both sides.

Kasuri, who also attended a function Wednesday evening, said Modi should appoint a trusted official for back-channel talks with Pakistan.

He said the person should be someone who enjoys Modi's confidence.

Kasuri said he had suggested his book's title as "Interrupted symphony" but his publishers came up with a new title which was acceptable to him.

He said the book also talks about things that have gone wrong in Pakistan.

He also favoured greater people-to-people interaction and opening both sides to each other's films and TV serials.

Kasuri is in Delhi to take part in a track-II dialogue that also involves Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

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