Kashmir will be in focus during Powell''s visit
13 October 2001
B. Muralidhar Reddy
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan today said that, besides Afghanistan, relations between India and Pakistan in the context of the unresolved issue of Kashmir would be the focus of discussions during the coming visit of the United States Secretary of State, Gen Colin Powell, to Islamabad . Gen. Powell is expected here on Monday in what is billed as a mission to shore up support for the Pakistan President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is under tremendous pressure from within the country for his support to the Bush administration in its fight against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan. The nature of the challenge faced by Gen. Musharraf is evident from not only the call by religious parties to observe a strike on the day Gen. Powell arrives, but also the aggressive questions by Pakistani journalists at a special foreign briefing. The Foreign Office spokesman, Mr. Riaz Mohammad Khan, today had a tough time handling questions as to why Pakistan is not condemning the civilian casualties in the military campaign. The decision of the Bush administration on Friday to put the Jaish-e-Mohammad on the list of outfits whose financial assets are frozen for suspected links with the Al-Qaeda seems to have added to the discomfiture of the Pakistan establishment. Pakistani journalists wanted to know why the U.S. did not deem it necessary to take Islamabad into confidence before initiating action against Pakistan-based organisations. One reporter even wanted to know what sort of a sovereign nation Pakistan was when the U.S. expected it to supply all the information but did not reciprocate the gesture. Mr. Khan characterised Gen. Powell''s visit as ''important at the current juncture'' and said the U.S. Secretary of State would meet Gen. Musharraf and the Foreign Minister, Mr. Abdul Sattar, and hold extensive discussions. He said besides Afghanistan, Indo-Pakistan relations and Kashmir - the ''root cause of tension'' between the two countries - would be the focus of the discussions. ''Kashmir is a dangerous source of conflict and acknowledged by the world community as articulated in the U.N. Security Council Resolution of June 1998''. Mr. Khan said the Kashmir issue needed to be addressed meaningfully for normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan. Tension between the two was partly linked to what he termed as ''Indian repression'' in Kashmir.