December 2003 News

High commissoner refutes Benazir's claims

16 December 2003
The Daily Times

NEW DELHI: Refuting former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's statement that her country was behind the low-intensity conflict in Kashmir, Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Aziz Ahmed Khan said, 'When the uprising started, we were surprised by its spontaneity and intensity. We had, however, seen it coming after what happened in (Kashmir in) 1987 onwards,' he said on Karan Thapar's, Court Martial on Sab TV on Tuesday. Describing Kashmir militancy as totally indigenous, the envoy said Pakistan had continued to support the Kashmiri struggle over the last 56 years. He said that the struggle, which had taken a militant turn, would dissipate once a 'sustained, serious dialogue process' was initiated in which everyone would be involved. Asked whether Pakistan had in mind any solution for the problem, the high commissioner refused to prescribe any, saying that it would amount to pre-judging things as views of all the three parties - India, Pakistan and Kashmiris - had to be heard. Favouring a composite dialogue between the two countries, Mr Khan called Kashmir the 'central and main' issue and the other seven issues as 'irritants', some of which were linked to the Kashmir problem. He also dismissed Ms Bhutto's statement favouring a soft border and shared sovereignty in Jammu and Kashmir as the views of an individual. Asked about the Pakistani intrusion in Kargil as a planned operation by then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf only three months after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's historic bus trip to Lahore, the high commissioner suggested that India 'forget the past and look ahead'. On the issue of suspension of over-flights between the two countries, he said India's 'unilateral' action had completely finished Pakistan's air operations to East Asia, particularly Dhaka, Malaysia and Indonesia. He also said that Pakistan was not shy of discussing the issue. Asked why Pakistan was not granting Most Favoured Nation status to India when the latter had done it long ago, Mr Khan said that it was not important since the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was around the corner. 'A framework agreement on SAFTA will be signed soon,' he said. On the fencing work being undertaken by India along the Line of Control (LoC), he claimed that it violated an agreement signed between the two countries in 1947. -Iftikhar Gilani


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