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No military solution to Kashmir, says Norway’s PM Solberg said the former PM’s visit to Kashmir was strictly a private one, which did not involve either government.

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On the eve of her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg has said her country was willing to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, provided both sides wanted the same.

The Kashmir problem cannot be solved only from a military standpoint and a popular support is also important, Solberg said during her interview with NDTV.

Last November, the former Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, made headlines when he visited Jammu and Kashmir and met separatist leaders. He was on a private visit at the invitation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and then went on to meet leaders in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

When asked on Bondevik’s view that there can be no military solution to Kashmir, Solberg said: “I don’t think there is a military solution to any situation like this. I think you have to have a popular support. You have to have good trust between the partners in any region where still there is a conflict but we don’t have a special meaning about whether it is a military solution in Kashmir or not. What we have learnt is that you have to bring in popular support and by getting women and youth into a peace process and that’s when you build a solid peace in an area where there has been a conflict.”

Solberg said the former PM’s visit to Kashmir was strictly a private one, which did not involve either government.

“He was invited and he wanted to see if there were some possibilities of helping out but there was no official mission and he was not on a mission from the Norwegian government”, she said.

Norway has a long history of conflict resolution and Bondevik had played a key role in the resolution of the conflict with Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka a few years ago.

Asked if Norway saw any role for mediation between India and Pakistan, Solberg said, “If there is an interest from the partners, we will try to use the mechanisms that we know. We have been working quite a lot in different countries but we always have this one basic thinking. The partners need to want to sit down by the table and discuss. Then of course if there is a need for a mediator, a need for a facilitator to fix, even though these are two very big countries that should manage to sort out things between themselves”.

She also said India and Pakistan should be talking more to each other and should decrease military expenditure “because we need more money for other areas to boost development – on health, education, but I think that means you have to try to decrease tension between countries. After such a long time. It’s a long time since 1947.”

Meanwhile, Solberg Monday said there was a “great scope” to develop bilateral partnerships with India in areas such as business, trade and investments.

“As India continues to be the fastest growing economy in the G20, we see a great scope for the Norwegian-Indian partnerships in business, trade and investments”, Solberg said at the Indian-Norwegian Solutions for Sustainable Growth-seminar here.

“It is against this backdrop that Norway has just launched a new strategy for our engagement with India. This reflects the importance we place on our bilateral relations.”

According to Solberg, the aim of the new strategy is to strengthen Norway’s bilateral relations and economic ties with India.

She further said that open and free trade were crucial for economic growth.

“A stable global framework for trade and investment is vital for both our countries, especially in times like today when we are seeing increased protectionism in certain markets,” Solberg said.

“We are doing what we can to ensure that the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement between EFTA and India will be finalised soon. This agreement will contribute to increased trade and a better environment for our businesses”. Courtesy NDTV/IANS

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