February 2003 News

PM Hits Back At Musharraf For Raising Kashmir At Nam Summit

24 February 2003
The Asian Age

Kuala Lumpur: India and Pakistan played the Kashmir game once again at the 13th nonaligned nations' summit in Kuala Lumpur on Monday. Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who addressed the NAM plenary before Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, equated the Kashmir conflict to the Palestinian issue. 'NAM must remain a symbol of hope for the peoples who even today struggle to realise their inalienable right to self-determination. Two supreme cases stand out - those of the oppressed people of Kashmir and Palestine,' said Gen. Musharraf. Prime Minister Vajpayee, however, mentioned Kashmir only at the end of his speech. Explaining the reason for his rebuttal, Mr Vajpayee said he had never intended to raise this issue at the NAM meet, but was constrained to respond to Gen. Musharraf's allegations against India. 'President Musharraf has referred to my country a little while ago. His strange logic masks Pakistan's territorial designs on an integral part of India,' the Prime Minister said. Raising the Kashmir issue, Gen. Musharraf said past decades have seen flagrant violations of international humanitarian law in Rwanda, Kashmir and Palestine. 'Oppression and unjust wars, waged for territory or resources, are incompatible with NAM's resources. These should be condemned,' he added. Referring obliquely to Kashmir, the Pakistan President said, 'We must not shy away from the principle of self-determination for peoples fighting foreign occupation or suppression by force. Many nations assembled here today owe their very creation to this noble principle.' In a terse reply to Gen. Musharraf's speech, Mr Vajpayee said, 'He justifies terrorism against India by talking of root causes. Does he go into the root causes of sectarian terrorism in his country? Or does he take stern action against the perpetrators of that terrorism? He talks of the 'oppressed people of Kashmir.' These same people very recently cast their ballots in an election universally recognised as free and fair. They defied the bullets of the terrorists, aided and abetted by Pakistan.' Blaming Pakistan for abetting cross-border terrorism, the Prime Minister added, 'Those very terrorists assassinated candidates and political activists in the elections and killed women and children because they refused to provide them food and shelter. These terrorists continue to perpetrate violence against innocent civilians every day. Yet Gen. Musharraf talks of an international humanitarian order!' After Mr Nelson Mandela raised the Kashmir issue at the 1998 Durban Summit, Malaysia took a neutral stand on the topic. Asked to comment on the tiff between India and Pakistan, Malaysian foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar said, 'It is an issue between India and Pakistan. The foreign ministers' plenary has decided that bilateral issues will not be raised at the forum.' Without mentioning Pakistan, Mr Vajpayee in his speech said it is inevitable in a movement of 116 nations it is inevitable that there are some differences or disputes between some of them. The Prime Minister said NAM should adopt the practice of organisations like the OIC and Asean and agree to disagree on certain issues. Gen. Musharraf urged NAM to address the root causes - resolve long-standing disputes and make efforts to address injustice, sense of frustration and powerlessness of the people involved. Gen. Musharraf added that NAM should work out a universally-accepted definition of terrorism. He said no nation must be allowed to use the global war on terrorism to suppress movements of self-determination. 'We must not allow anyone to manipulate the fight against terrorism to de-legitimise just struggles of peoples against illegal occupation. This travesty must be rejected with the contempt it deserves,' the Pakistan President said. Responding to this suggestion, Mr Vajpayee said it was imperative for NAM to take a clear stand on the issue of terrorism. 'There can be no double standards, no confusion between terrorism and freedom struggles, no implicit condoning of terrorism through an investigation of its 'root causes.' There can be no justification for terrorism,' he said. The Pakistan President took a dig at New Delhi's quest for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. 'NAM must be the voice of principle and not the voice of power. Asymmetry of power takes different forms, from unmatched military strength to unequal distribution of economic resources to permanent membership of the Security Council. Such asymmetry undermines the collective good,' he said in his speech. Highlighting India's concern about the revitalisation of the nonaligned movement, the Prime Minister outlined points that India thinks are fundamental to the revitalisation of the movement: n Clear consensus on key issues. Political - Multilateralism, fight against global terror and UN reforms. Economic - Development, democratisation of international financial institutions, North-South and South-South cooperation. n NAM outlook and agenda has to be global. Focus on issues that unite, rather than divide and tone must be objective and pragmatic. n Position NAM as a major pole in a multi-polar configuration. n Move South-South cooperation to the economic marketplace. n Develop progressive agenda on democracy, human rights and multiculturalism. After his speech, Gen. Musharraf seemed to draw every journalist in the plenary hall: as the general recorded an interview with a news agency and a Malaysian newspaper, the crowd of journalists outside the small studio at the Putra World Trade Centre's media corner would any day rival the paparazzi who used to trail the late Diana, Princess of Wales. His short walk back to the plenary hall was a security nightmare, with TV camerapersons, photographers and reporters crowding him, climbing on computer tables and jostling his entourage in search for a soundbite. The Kashmir game shifted from the plenary hall to the media centre, with the Indian camp fielding external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha and foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal at informal press briefings. Mr Sinha blamed Gen. Musharraf for raising a bilateral issue at the NAM forum. He said that India was forced to raise the topic in order to give answers to all the allegations made by him. And so the battle continues.


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