Musharraf: Pakistan Eyes Kashmir Withdraw
1 December 2003
The Washington Post
Islamabad: Pakistan would withdraw its forces from the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir if rival India does, Pakistan's president said Monday. 'India has 700,000 troops in Kashmir. We have only 50,000 troops in Kashmir. Let's both remove (the troops),' President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said. 'Let's start from tomorrow.' The Pakistani leader's comments, made during a radio phone-in program, come amid escalating peace efforts by the South Asian neighbors, including a cease-fire that began last week. But despite the easing of tension, the two countries would be unlikely to agree to a complete withdrawal of forces until an overall settlement of the dispute, which has been the source of two of their three wars. India accuses Pakistan of arming and supporting Islamic militants who have been fighting Indian rule in its portion of Kashmir since 1989. Pakistan denies giving material help to the militants, saying it lends only diplomatic support. More than 60,000 people have been killed during the 14-year insurgency, which has continued despite the cease-fire on the Line of Control by the Indian and Pakistani armies. Pakistan's leader, who took power in a bloodless military coup in this Islamic nation in 1999, said that Pakistan and India had to leave their historical differences behind. 'I have always been saying that if we have a bitter history, which has bitterness, it is better to forget it and think ahead,' Musharraf said. In the latest reconciliation move, India and Pakistan agreed Monday to restore air links by Jan. 1, two years after the nuclear rivals ended all transportation links amid tensions that took them to the brink of a fourth war.