Interviewer: To clear the mess created by the war, and to steer Pakistan out, as smoothly as possible, of the highly complicated post-war situation, your Excellency has shown exceptional flexibility, more perhaps than was expected in many quarters. Would your Excellency now define the limits to which your country would go, and beyond which India should ask no more, for the sake of settling all outstanding mutual difference, including the all important question of Kashmir?
President: Pakistan wants a durable peace with India, and to achieve this end, we are prepared to take practical measures to end the confrontation, restore normal links and make a beginning towards good neighborly relations. Any settlement must, however, be based on justice and equity because history shows that a dictated peace is always short-lived. While we believe that all outstanding issues should be settled, it is my opinion that problems, which have persisted for 25 years and have a historical background, cannot be solved in one go. A practical and pragmatic approach will be to proceed step by step. If a new era of peace and tranquility is to begin in the subcontinent, we will have to trust each other in a spirit of equality. Last month our emissaries met in Pakistan and agreed upon an agenda for a meeting between Mrs. Gandhi and myself. I would not like to go into details at this point. As for Kashmir and the future of its people, I have repeatedly stated that it is a question, which the Kashmir’s alone can decide. It is not for India or Pakistan to confer or take away from the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination.
Interviewer: It is understood that among your urgent concerns after the war has been the return of the 90,000 odd Pakistan troops held in Indian captivity. What precisely now stands in the way of their repatriation?
President: According to the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war are to be repatriated soon after the cessation of active hostilities. According to the Security Council Resolution for India’s refusal to return the prisoners. While we are anxious for our prisoners to be release, we will not sacrifice vital national interests to bring this about, nor will we compromise fundamental principles, we look upon this as a humanitarian, issue, not a political one. We do not believe in horse-trading or expediency. I have already made a unilateral offer to release all the Indian POW’s that we captured in the last war. It is not a question of numbers involved, it is a question of principle.
Interviewer: Reading your interview in “Newsweek” a few weeks ago, one was made to wonder whether Your Excellency has not had second thoughts about the release of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman. Would the Sheikh’s detention have helped in your endeavor now to get back your POWs?
President: I have had not second thoughts about the release of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman. I took that step because I considered it right, and I resisted the idea of using him for bargaining purposes. We have played clean all along and though none of our gestures has been reciprocated in like spirit or in equal measure, I do not regret Mujib-s release for a minute.
Interviewer: What framework of relationship does your Excellency conceive between Pakistan and its former Eastern Wing now declared Bangladesh? Indeed, what framework of a triangular relationship (among Pakistan, Bangladesh, India) would, in your, view, best ensure territorial security for, and constructive cooperation among all sides?
President: The people of Muslim Bengal played a leading role in the struggle for the creation of Pakistan. It is imperative that I meet Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman before taking any decision about the future relationship between the two wings of our country. I am prepared to meet him anywhere, any time. We have many bilateral issues to settle with India that we propose to take up in direct negotiations. It is only after the immediate problems, arising out of the tragic events of 1971 have been dealt with, that we can begin to think of the long-term requirements of the region.
Interviewer: Relations between Pakistan and the Arab world have always been good and friendly but much less productive and effectual. How would your Excellency evaluate these relations from the experience of the past years, and what opportunities for their enhancement on a more practical level could be initiated in the future?
President: We enjoy close and fraternal relations with the countries of the Arab world, relations firmly rooted in a common history, religion and culture. The people of Pakistan can never forget the support their Arab brothers gave at the most crucial point of their history. We are already working in close co-operation with many Arab countries in the economic and technical fields. I believe that there are great possibilities for the further enrichment of these relations, for the broadening of horizons, as it were. We can also increase opportunities for consultation on political matters and forge a coordinated approach to issues of joint concern. I have great hopes for closer relations and Pakistan would certainly like to play its part in promoting the resurgence of the countries of the Muslim would that extend all the way up to the Atlantic Ocean.
Interviewer: Certain reports recently have indicated your government’s intention to develop the Mekran Coast, where Pakistan can build a second port. Since that would bring your country in closer communication with Oman and the Arabian Gulf, what plans, if any, have been envisaged for promoting greater trade and economic exchange between Pakistan and these Arab areas?
President: We do have some plans for developing a second port to relieve the pressure on Karachi, and provide greater scope for trade. Very naturally, the possibilities that would be opened up in this way would lead to greater trade and economic co-operation with the countries in our immediate vicinity, including the ones mentioned in your question. The countries on the Arabian Peninsula have made spectacular progress over the years. We believe that we can take part in this process, particularly in meeting the growing demand in this area for goods and services. We can also provide technical and professional skills that may at present be needed in this region.
Interviewer: The Arab world has been going through an arduous and the protracted struggle against the Zionist-imperialist forces, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine and large parts of other Arab territory continues to be the predominant concern of all Arab states. In what way Pakistan, as a Muslim and friendly country, has supported, and could further support, the Arab cause?
President: Pakistan has always fully backed the Arab cause in Palestine. That is a cause in which all freedom-loving people, all Muslims believe. The Arab world and the people of Pakistan will always have Pakistan’s unswerving support in every forum, at every step.
Interviewer: In strictly practical terms, how successfully Your Excellency believe the concept of Islamic solidarity could be translated into a framework of concrete cooperation among the Muslim States?
President: The concept of Islamic solidarity has gained momentum in recent years. Although it is not a new concept and haws indeed existed since the very birth of Islam, concrete shape is being given to the aspirations of the Muslim world through regular meetings of the Foreign Ministers of the Muslim countries. The last one took place in Jeddah this March. An Islamic Secretariat has also been set up and ways and means of promoting co-operation in various fields are being explored. I believe that an area of common endeavor and mutual benefit can be found by the Islamic world. Pakistan will always be in the vanguard of this great renaissance.