March 2000 News

Musharraf not for status quo solution to Kashmir

30 March 2000
P.S. Suryanarayana

Singapore: The visiting Pakistani Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, affirmed here today that the Kashmir dispute was important to Islamabad as an aspect of ''national dignity'' and that he would ''not compromise'' on it. He did not favour the ''status quo'' as a solution to the Kashmir issue. Reinforcing the stance in the context of the South Asia visit by the U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton, the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Mr. Abdul Sattar, accompanying Gen. Musharraf during his South East Asia tour, said Islamabad was now ''waiting for a response'' from India to Gen. Musharraf''s offer to enter into a bilateral dialogue ''at any place, at any level''. Gen. Musharraf drew a nexus between Kashmir and Islamabad''s national ''honour'' as he sought to answer a question at a meeting with the Singapore Pakistani community here. The elaborate but direct questioning was as follows: ''There is plenty of pressure from the world on Kashmir issue. Why is Kashmir so important for Pakistan? Are we going to mortgage Pakistan''s future for Kashmir? Clearly, we have not done that for bringing back Biharis from East Pakistan? Why can''t there be a status quo (on Kashmir) and (so that) we (Pakistanis) move on?'' Gen. Musharraf said that the Kashmir dispute was ''recognised internationally by the United Nations'' and ''nations have their dignity and pride to guard, to stand by.'' He stressed that he was ''not one of those who would compromise on national dignity'' which ''shall never get threatened.'' Kashmir was, therefore, important to Pakistan, he said. Answering a related poser on Pakistan''s defence spending as a drain on its exchequer, Gen. Musharraf said only 19 per cent of Islamabad''s annual budget was being allocated for military expenditure as against 56 per cent towards the servicing of the national debt that had more than trebled in the past decade. Moreover, even if the questioner could ''not agree,'' Pakistan was at present ''facing a very serious security concern,'' Gen. Musharraf said and contended that India had raised its defence budget by ''28 per cent'' which he did not seek to match. Pakistan, according to the military ruler, was in quest of ''nothing more than a deterrent capability'' at a ''minimal level'' in the ''conventional and unconventional areas.'' Pakistan, he said, had at present attained this, but he did not spell out specifics. ''India reluctant for talks'' Mr. Abdul Sattar viewed India''s stance on the resumption of the bilateral dialogue as an ''obstructionist attitude''. Shortly before leaving Singapore for Jakarta, he said in response to a question from this correspondent, that ''President Clinton feels that it is important for the two countries (India and Pakistan) to resume dialogue.'' Contending that ''there have to be two partners in a dialogue,'' Mr. Sattar said that India, however, ''appears to be reluctant.'' New Delhi ''has placed conditions'' and ''that obviously is going to obstruct the resumption of the dialogue.''


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