Bush takes Pervez cue on Kashmir
11 November 2001
The Asian Age
Ashish Kumar Sen
New Delhi: Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf scored a major victory over the Indian diplomatic efforts when US President George W. Bush offered to bring India and Pakistan together to have “good and meaningful” talks on Kashmir, taking into account the “wishes of the people” of Jammu and Kashmir. In a rush of benevolence, Mr Bush also announced $1 billion additional US aid for Pakistan on Saturday. Heaping lavish praise on Gen. Musharraf for joining the US-led war against Afghanistan, President Geroge W. Bush called him a “strong leader,” and Islamabad a “strong ally” after the two leaders met over dinner on Saturday. With Gen. Musharraf standing next to him, Mr Bush told reporters, “We had a very good discussion on this subject (Kashmir), and I assured the Pakistan President that my country will do what we can to bring parties (India and Pakistan) together to have good, meaningful discussion on Kashmir so that we can come up with a solution.” A joint statement issued later referred to the two leaders agreeing that “India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir issue through diplomacy and dialogue in mutually acceptable ways that take into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir.” Mr Bush also declared that Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terrorism were bringing it back into the global fold. “Pakistan’s efforts against terror are benefiting the entire world and linking Pakistan more closely with the world,” Mr Bush said at the joint news conference. The Bush-Musharraf talks came a few hours after Gen. Musharraf squarely blamed the unsettled disputes in Kashmir and Palestine as being the root cause of acts of terrorism such as the kind that hit the US on September 11. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, a few miles from where thousands of people lie buried in a tomb of World Trade Centre rubble, Gen. Musharraf bluntly accused India of creating a sense of “deprivation, hopelessness and powerlessness” that precipitated acts of terror. “The question then is, whether it is the people asking for their rights in accordance with UN resolutions who are to be called terrorists or whether it is the countries refusing to implement the UN resolutions who are perpetrators of state terrorism,” he said accusing Indian forces of having killed “over 75,000 Kashmiris and attributing these killings to foreign terrorists.” “It is time India must stop such deceit. UN Security Council Resolutions on Kashmir must be implemented,” Gen. Musharraf said in a hard-hitting diatribe on India. Later, speaking to reporters, Gen. Musharraf reiterated his keenness for a dialogue with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and added that the “ball is now in India’s court… one can’t clap with two hands. I have extended an invitation to both the Indian Prime Minister and the foreign minister, and I look forward to their visit.” “Pakistan remains ready for the resumption of a dialogue with India,” Gen. Musharraf said even as Mr Vajpayee reiterated his determination not to meet the Pakistani President here in New York though both leaders were present at the UN session on Saturday. Gen. Musharraf said in his UN address that Pakistan is ready to enter into a bilateral treaty with India for mutual ban on testing of nuclear devices. He said Pakistan is ready to discuss with India “nuclear and missile restraint as well as nuclear risk reduction measures in a structured, comprehensive and integrated dialogue.” “We are ready to formalise a bilateral treaty with India for mutual test ban,” he said. Gen. Musharraf said he had been “very successful” in convincing the leaders of France and Britain that Kashmir is a dispute that has to be solved peacefully. Saying there was no “war” in Afghanistan, just a “military operation against terrorists”, Gen. Musharraf said it was desirable that the military operation be “as short and accurately targeted as possible.” With the Bush administration determined to press ahead with military action in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to achieve America’s objectives, Gen. Musharraf no longer publicly refers to the November 17 Ramzan deadline for an end to military action, but he continues to emphasise the need for this to be brief. “There is no war in Afghanistan… it is just a military operation against terrorists,” Gen. Musharraf said. Replying to a question on how the Taliban would react to being “betrayed” by Pakistan, Gen. Musharraf justified Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan on “the reality on the ground.” But, he added, “having diplomatic relations with a country does not mean we are accepting everything they are doing. The Taliban was created from within.” He dismissed as a “wrong perception” reports that the Pakistan Army was assisting the Taliban. “Pakistan was neither equipping them… we don’t have the resources to do that. And whatever resources we have, maybe there is an eastern direction on which we would like to concentrate them,” he said. Telling the UN session terrorism was “not Christian, Buddhist, Jewish or a Muslim belief,” Gen. Musharraf said: “The religion of Islam, and Muslims in various parts of the world, are being held responsible for the trials the world is facing. This point of view is totally misplaced.” Suggesting a three-pronged strategy to deal with Afghanistan, he said this should be based on military, political and humanitarian cum rehabilitation strategies. “In our view, the political set up in Afghanistan must be home-grown and not imposed, ensuring the unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, with a broad based, multi-ethnic dispensation, representative of the demographic composition of the country,” he said, adding conditions must be created for more than three million refugees in Pakistan to return to their country. Pointing out Pakistan’s “deliberate principled decision” to join the international coalition against terrorism, Gen. Musharraf said: “While the people of Pakistan have accepted this new reality, they still suffer from a sense of betrayal and abandonment, when, they were left in the lurch in 1989 after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.” “Then also, we were a front line state and what we got in return was three million refugees, a shattered economy, drugs and Kalashnikov culture, to be faced single handedly through our limited resources. Pakistan only hopes that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated and Pakistan’s legitimate concerns will be addressed,” he added. Telling the UN members that Pakistan was ready to discuss with India how to create a stable South Asian security mechanism through a peaceful resolution of disputes, preservation of nuclear and conventional balance, confidence building measures and non-use of force prescribed by the UN Charter, Gen. Musharraf added: “In this context, we are ready to discuss nuclear and missile restraints as well as nuclear risk reduction measures with India in a structured, comprehensive and integrated dialogue.” He reiterated his keenness to formalise a bilateral treaty with India for mutual test ban. “Pakistan is opposed to an arms race in South Asia, be it nuclear or conventional. We will maintain deterrence at the minimum level,” he said.