President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said this Pakistan will welcome any initiative that Ceylon may take for the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners of war and resolution of other problems between Pakistan and India.
He was going an interview in Karachi to the Editor of the “Times of Ceylon,” Mr. Reggie Michael.
The President said that an initiative coming from the Prime Minister of Ceylon, whom we have known for a long time, would be particularly welcome because she was a friend of both Pakistan and India. The people of Pakistan, moreover, had high regard for the people of Ceylon and they would be only too happy if the people of Ceylon and they would be only too happy if the people of Ceylon lent a hand in the resolution of their problems with India.
But he was rather skeptical about the outcome of these initiative not only from Ceylon but also from other quarter in view of the stand taken by India that she will consider repatriating Pakistani POWs provided Bangladesh agreed to it. He said essentially speaking, the return of POWs was not connected with any Pakistani decision on the recognition of Bangladesh. If the Geneva Conventions were to be complied with, there was no justification for keeping over 90,000 prisoners of war, of which 20,000 were civilians including women and children, after a cease-fire had taken place and after the territories occupied during the war had been vacated by the troops of the two countries.
The President referred to the cease-fire in Vietnam and said the first thing they saw to after the cease-fire was that the American POWs were to be returned. This is as it should be. We were happy that the American POWs were returning to their country. Similarly, we would like to see our prisoners of war coming back to Pakistan. But India had without justification linked up their with the recognition of Bangladesh.
Today, he said India had linked it up with Bangladesh, tomorrow she might link it up with something else.
The President said that continued detention of Pakistani prisoners of war is not going to contribute to the resolution of problems between the two countries. If they look at the future and Pakistan looks at it hopefully. It would be better if the POWs were now returned.
Replying to a question the President said the POWs issue was the main issue in terms of the aftermath of the last war but the hurdle of hurdles was the Kashmir dispute. It had to be resolved before India and Pakistan could hope for a lasting peace and live together in mutual trust in the same subcontinent and co-operate with one another in as many fields as possible.
The President pointed out that continued tension between Pakistan and India was not at all conductive to their progress. He regretted that whereas in other countries people were moving forward in improving their conditions. They, in this sub-continent, were going backwards. Non-productive expenditure on defence of both India and Pakistan had reached alarming proportions. There was more poverty now than it was a decade ago.
The President said that it was no use saying there were Great Powers, who would like to see things boil in this area because it suited them to keep the two countries apart. Why should they play in the hands of others? If they know these things were happening and if they realised the damage they would do to their national interests and to the interests of peace in the whole region, they should fall back on their own commonsense and intelligence and have frequent bilateral discussions, more contacts between themselves, more dialogues in depth and dimension.
Replying to a question the President said Pakistan would support the Ceylonese resolution at the United Nations that the Indian Ocean should be made a peace zone. He said out only there should be peace is the territorial part of the subcontinent but also the Indian Ocean because cockpit of international interests. In that event, the subcontinent itself could not escape from those activities.
Asked about his attitude towards regional co-operations on the lines of European Common Market, the President said that in principle, Pakistan would like to work for a Common Market in Asia but, in practical terms a region had to attain a certain level of technological development before its economy could become complementary. Unfortunately, in Asia they had not so far reached that level of economic development where the could pool their resources for the collective benefit of all countries. In reality, development was so uneven that pooling would not be equitably beneficial but would tend to pill in the direction of one country on the other.
He said that basically they were producers of primary commodities though some of them were getting into semi-manufacturing and manufacturing fields. Mostly their economies were parallel and, therefore, he believed they would first have to bring about a sufficient progress in their own internal economies before they could think in terms of a common market. They were also short of so many things which had to be imported. They must, therefore, wait for sometime to reach a level of economic development where they are self-sufficient at least in their basic requirements.