Kashmir tops Musharraf''s agenda in talks with Bush
1 September 2002
The Hindustan Times
Islamabad: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf plans to discuss ways to resolve the Kashmir issue with his US counterpart George W Bush in New York later this month which would include recognition of LoC as a permanent border and resumption of trade relations with India, media reports here said. The package of solutions, being considered by Musharraf in the run up to his visit later this month to New York to attend the UN General Assembly (UNGA), included regularisation of LoC as international border in ''exchange to withdrawal of Indian claims on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Northern Areas'', and normalisation of trade relations between the two nations, Pakistani daily The News said. Also if an understanding was worked out, Islamabad would ''make it clear'' to Kashmiri groups that the elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly would be an internal affair of India. Musharraf''s Kashmir package would include providing facilities for US to set an airbase at Skaradu in Pakistan''s Northern Areas to conduct long term military operations against Al-Qaeda and Taliban, the paper said.While Pakistani officials were not available for comment, Chairman of Pakistan''s National Kashmir Committee, Abdul Qayyum Khan, told PTI that the news item made an ''incredible'' reading but sounds ''irrelevant and far-fetched''. The paper said the package, expected to invite a barrage of criticism from parties and groups in Pakistan, was being given top-level consideration in Washington against the backdrop of certain developments including US Marines-led chase of Al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants in tribal areas along Durand Line. More Qayyum, former president and prime minister of PoK, said Musharraf, who would be leaving for US in the second week of this month, certainly worked on a strategy to prepare for his crucial visit to US to attend the UN General Assembly. ''But I wonder whether there would any compromise on basic positions. ''He said during his meeting with Musharraf two days ago, the President did not discuss any such ''solutions'' listed by the paper. ''It is incredible, if you read the story, you cannot but wonder why the two countries were fighting for long,'' he said. ''I am not part of the Government but I do not think that such wider compromises were on the cards during the visit,'' he said. Qayum said the issue of solutions to Kashmir problem has figured prominently in his talks with Lisa Curtis, Special Adviser to US Assistant Secretary of state Christina Rocca. Qayyum said the most important thing he suggested to Curtis on Saturday in their talks here was that US should step up its efforts to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf during their stay in New York. Musharraf was scheduled to address the UNGA on September 12 followed by Vajpayee on September 13. Both were scheduled to have separate meetings with Bush but officials from both sides have so far maintained that no Vajpayee- Musharraf meeting was contemplated for the time being.