LAHORE - Veteran politician Syeda Abida Hussain thinks that Pakistan should not get into a bear hug with India and maintain status quo on Kashmir as long as Narendra Moodi is in power.

“Moodi is distinctly anti-Muslim and more particularly anti-Pakistan. He is not going to let any progress made on Pak-Indian relations,” she said in an interview with The Nation.

During the course of interview she also talked about some interesting aspects of presidential elections in the Unites States and their impact on Pak-US relations. She urged the government to improve relations with other neighboring countries particularly Iran rather than wasting time on futile efforts to get close to India.

The politician from Jhang disagreed with the common perception that Mian Nawaz Sharif and Moodi would like to record their names in history by resolving the outstanding disputes to win Nobel Peace Prize.

“Despite his good gestures, Moodi is not going to encourage progress on the bilateral talks. So long as he is in power there would be no improvement in relations,” she affirmed.

“As the things stand today, Indians are not going to concede an inch on Kashmir and we are also not going to concede much because of our water interests in Kashmir and our commitment with the Kashmiris. This being the case how can we expect much from India,” she asked.

Quoting the new Indian High Commissioner that dialogue may resume soon, Abida said there was little chance of any breakthrough on resumption of composite dialogue.“Frankly, I don’t think we will get anywhere with the talks”.

Syeda Abida Hussain served as Pakistan Ambassador to the US from 1991 to 1993.

She has at various times held the portfolios of Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Minister for Food and Agriculture, the Minister for Population Welfare and the Minister for Environment and Urban Affairs. In April 1999, she resigned as minister following allegations of power theft.

To a question, she agreed that establishments in the two countries were not enthusiastic to promote relations between the two countries. “It is a reality that establishments on both sides of the border are not much enthusiastic to normalise the relations. But leaving this aside, if we take a very cool view of the current situation, we should adopt the policy of “live and let live” with India. We should not be unduly enthusiastic in our desire to improve relations. We should not get into a bear hug with India which does not in any way promote Pakistan interests”.

But nonetheless, she added, Pakistan should certainly ensure that hostility between India and Pakistan does not increase. “We should be more focused on improving relations with other neighbours like China, Afghanistan and Iran

Abida also opposed open trade with India which she believed was not beneficial for Pakistan.

“We should have limited trade with India to protect our industry and agriculture”.

She informed that current imbalance of trade between the two countries was 8 to 1. “For every 10,000 worth of goods that Indians buy from Pakistan they sell us goods worth 800,000,” she observed.

Ms Hussain stressed the need for improving trade relations with Iran which, according to her, could be an effective trade partner after lifting of sanctions.

“They would have an interest in buying our goods like electrical goods, pharmaceuticals and agriculture products. Besides, Iran is energy surplus and Pakistan is energy deficient.”

In the past three decades, she said, “Pakistan had considerable strong cultural ties with Iran until we made a clear tilt towards Saudi Arabia. “If we are going to engage economically with Iran those old cultural ties can be revived”. She said public opinion in Pakistan was no longer favourable for Saudi Arabia as people now think that this country had been financing Madrassas which produced terrorists.

She also supported Pakistan government’s initiative to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia closer together. “We should continue to engage in shuttle diplomacy to end Saudi-Iran conflict”

On Afghanistan, she said: “We should round up Taliban coming from Afghanistan and the latter should do the same for those fleeing Pakistan.” Abida held the view that it was in Pakistan’s interest that it should focus more on clinching a power-sharing deal between Kabul and Taliban. “If we succeed in brokering this deal Afghanistan would become stable which is in our interest”.

On Pak-US relations, she said that Pakistan would be a low priority area for the new US Presidency. “It is more interested in South and Central America, Europe and the Middle East where it has its commercial interests. Besides, it would also be more interested in India to beef it up against China”.

She viewed that USA did have an interest in Afghanistan but it was declining. Especially it would be the case if the power-sharing deal with Taliban gets mature, she said.

About USA’s future interests in Pakistan, she said they do have an interest in Pakistan but only to the extent of terrorism. “Apart from terrorism they have no interest in Pakistan. She, however, said that new presidency will maintain the current level of financial support to Pakistan to prevent it from default. “A love and hate relationship exists between the two countries and it will continue because it is old with old contours”.

In the context of recent election scene in America, she said Trump’s emergence would be dangerous sign for Pakistan owing to his anti-Muslim sentiments.

She said it would be good for Pakistan if Hillary wins her party’s nomination and then gets elected as president.

“It is because she has visited Pakistan four times. She knows us quite well

She knows individuals here. Since she has been secretary of state she would focus more on foreign policy unlike her competitor Bernie Sanders who is more likely to focus on domestic affairs. Sander calls himself a socialist and for this reason he is not likely to get friendly with a right government, the kind of which we currently have in Pakistan.”

She opined that if there is some untoward episode happening close to the elections it would have its bearing on the outcome of presidential election. “Traditionally, in America, whatever events take place in the months of September and October, they have their impact on the election results. For example, she said, when Iran took Americans hostages in the months of September, Jimmy Carter who was leading up to that point lost the election. Similarly, when a staffer of Bill Clinton said it is the economy which is dying, George Victor Bush, otherwise a victor of the cold war lost to Clinton though the economic recession was mild. So developments internal and global in the months of September and October have considerable bearing on the presidential elections,” she concluded.