June 2001 News

Talks to focus on Azad Kashmir, says Vajpayee

19 June 2001
The News International

BOMBAY: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said on Tuesday he was optimistic that next month's Indo-Pakistan peace summit would yield results, but stressed there would be no compromise on sovereignty over Kashmir.Vajpayee also made it clear that there would be no compromise on India's territorial claim to the region of Kashmir. "We are clear that Kashmir is an integral part of India. We will stress this issue in the dialogue," Vajpayee said. "One-third of Kashmir is with Pakistan and we will raise this issue also," he added.The Indian Foreign Ministry said Musharraf would visit from July 14 to 16 and the summit would be held in Agra, site of the Taj Mahal. Speaking from a wheelchair following recent knee surgery, Vajpayee said the invitation General Pervez Musharraf, for talks had arisen from India's desire for a "tension-free relationship" with its neighbour. "That is why we decided to take this step towards peace and dialogue, and I am confident that it will yield results," the prime minister told reporters in the grounds of Bombay's Breach Candy hospital. "I am an optimist," he added.Questioned over Pakistan's decision on Monday to cap defence spending at current levels, Vajpayee said both countries spent too much on arms "and not enough on development." The prime minister said he would convene an all-party meeting before Musharraf's arrival to review Indo-Pakistan ties and "chart a future course" for the bilateral relationship.Meanwhile, leaders of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) on Tuesday said they are saddened by Indian premier Atal Behari Vajpayee's remarks that the occupied region is an integral part of India."An atmosphere of trust was building up ahead of the summit between Vajpayee and (Chief Executive General Pervez) Musharraf," said former APHC chief Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. "But the Indian prime minister's remarks are bound to raise a lot of heat and dust on the other side," he said.Mirwaiz urged Vajpayee to accept the realities on the ground in Kashmir before meeting Musharraf for talks in July. "The stark reality is that we have never accepted Kashmir's so-called accession to India," he said. "Had we done that, there would have been no problem in Kashmir." He said the Hurriyat leaders would meet soon to prepare a response to the Vajpayee's remarks.Another Kashmiri leader, Shabir Shah who heads the Democratic Freedom Party said: "Vajpayee's comments are highly depressing." Shah said that remarks like those made by Vajpayee would only, "vitiate the atmosphere" before "the heads of two hostile nations meet". Shah said that Kashmiris had never accepted the region as integral part of India. "Its future has not been ascertained yet," he added.Indian invitation to Musharraf had been widely hailed by the Kashmiris, but on Tuesday many said that Vajpayee's latest comments had dashed the hopes generated when the invitation was extended last month."Now I don"t see any result coming out of the summit," said Arshi Amin, a school teacher. "Today our optimism has transformed into pessimism following this statement from the Indian prime minister," she said.


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