February 2000 News

Tarar hopes Clinton visit will resolve Kashmir issue

4 February 2000
The Times of India

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar on Friday said Kashmir had become a ``nuclear flashpoint'' in the sub-continent and expressed the hope that Clinton's visit here would help resolve the issue.

The dire need for resolving the Kashmir issue could not be overlooked as it has emerged as a nuclear flashpoint in the region after the nuclearisation of South Asia, Tarar told reporters after a seminar here. He hoped the US and the world community would realise the ``gravity of the Kashmir problem'' if they were really interested in peace in South Asia.

Tarar parried a question whether Clinton would visit Islamabad saying ``it will be seen when he comes to this region'' on a visit to India and Bangladesh.

He referred to the recent statement by US assistant secretary of state Karl Inderfurth on Pakistan-US ties and said it reflected the ``importance'' which Americans attached to Pakistan. Clinton has not ruled out a visit to Pakistan during his South Asia tour next month.

Meanwhile, the English daily Pakistan Observer reported Friday that Clinton was ``willing to stopover in Karachi and Lahore for a few hours to hold bilateral talks with military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf.''

The daily quoting informed diplomatic sources said Pakistan had said ``no'' to this cosmetic gesture and was insisting that Clinton should not only make an overnight stay in Pakistan, but should also travel down to Islamabad.

It said Clinton had reportedly given the go-ahead for his visit to Pakistan after marathon discussions with aides and security advisers and advance security teams had reported back to Washington that the security environment in the country was conducive to his visit.

The daily said ``positive signals from Islamabad have helped President Clinton to include Pakistan in his itinerary'' during his March visit. It, however, said ``the Americans are still wanting Pakistan to announce the signing of the CTBT during Clinton's visit to Pakistan.''

Pakistani newspapers also warned Friday that peace and stability in South Asia would suffer if Clinton excluded Pakistan from his itinerary. The much-awaited visit has been ``marred by confusing signals from Washington about whether or not the final schedule will include Pakistan,'' the News said in an editorial.

Islamabad's omission from the first announcement of Clinton's itinerary has ``lit up'' faces in New Delhi but spurred concerns here that tension in Kashmir may rise, the paper noted.

``There is apprehension in Pakistan that India might get carried away...and toughen its stand on Kashmir, raising the the present level of its pugnacity,'' the News said.

Washington policymakers ``have already achieved the exact opposite of what they may have hoped to gain by arranging the big event: Enhanced goodwill for Washington in both Delhi and Islamabad to deepen a constructive US engagement in South Asia,'' the daily said.

``It is unclear whether this damage could at all be undone by landing Mr Clinton's aircraft at the Islamabad airport and using the refuelling for a quick chat with Pakistani leaders,'' the News said.

The Frontier Post said Clinton ``can play a historic mediation role, provided he does not discriminate between India and Pakistan ... If nothing else, he can at least get the two subcontinental leaders, regardless of the fact that one wears a uniform, on to a negotiating table.''

``It is time to give the subcontinent a new and strong push towards peace; it can only come from the outsiders, given that General Musharraf and his civilian Indian counterpart have worked themselves into a hopeless no-win situation,'' the daily said. (Agencies)


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