Autonomous Kashmir an option, says US paper
9 June 2001
Our Staff Correspondent
WASHINGTON: Among compromise proposals on Kashmir being discussed in Islamabad ahead of the proposed Musharraf-Vajpayee summit are suggestions to give Kashmir some degree of autonomy , declare a de-militarized zone, soften border restrictions and allow trade to begin. This is claimed in a report from the Pakistan capital published in Saturday's Washington Times. The report quotes Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf as saying this week that "forward movement is possible provided the two sides come to the negotiating table with open minds and agree to show some flexibility in their stated positions on Kashmir". But the report says General Musharraf will have a hard task selling that flexibility to his people, and senior Pakistani officials expect little of substance to come out of the first round of talks in New Delhi. The report also says the general's image is "rapidly changing from a pariah dictator to a credible leader in the eyes of arch rival India". He has emerged as a leader with whom India believes it can deal. Nevertheless, according to the report, headlined "Musharraf's stock rising in India", the general is quickly discovering that the role of international diplomat is not like running an obedient army. "Already critics at home, particularly from the hard-line Mujahideen groups fighting in Kashmir, are lining up to condemn the visit," and even the mainstream religious parties are wary of the Delhi visit.