Pakistan ready to drop demand for plebiscite in Kashmir: Pervez
17 December 2003
The Hindustan Times
Rawalpindi: Pakistan is ready to drop long-standing demands for the implementation of UN resolutions over Kashmir and meet India 'halfway' in a bid for peace, President Pervez Musharraf said.For over 50 years, Islamabad has insisted on a plebiscite to allow people in Kashmir to decide between joining India or Pakistan, a position backed by a series of UN Security Council resolutions in the late 1940s.But, speaking less than three weeks before the SAARC summit in Islamabad, Musharraf said he was prepared to be 'bold and flexible' in an attempt to resolve the issue.'We are for United Nations Security Council resolutions,' he said in an interview at his home late on Wednesday. 'However, now we have left that aside.'If we want to resolve this issue, both sides need to talk to each other with flexibility, coming beyond stated positions, meeting halfway somewhere.'Relations between India and Pakistan thawed this year and the two armies agreed to a ceasefire last month along the Line of Control in Kashmir.Musharraf said this represented a 'very real opportunity' to make peace, but warned India not to throw away the chance by continuing to spurn offers for talks.'The basis of everything, the basis of a reduction in militancy...is moving forward on a process of dialogue,' he said. 'If that political dialogue doesn't come about, who wins and who loses? It is the moderates who lose and the extremists who win, and that is exactly what has been happening.'Musharraf refused to be drawn on how to settle the Kashmir dispute, but said any solution had to be acceptable to Kashmiri people as well as to both countries.Key SummitIn January, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is expected to visit Islamabad for the SAARC summit, billed as an important chance to move the peace process forward. Musharraf said Vajpayee should not miss the chance to discuss Kashmir.'We have come to a stage where there is a thaw in relations, where there is expectation on both sides in the people,' he said. 'If the leadership doesn't rise to the occasion, it is a pity and I think we'll disappoint our public again.'But Musharraf warned that he would not plead for an audience with Vajpayee next month.'The ball is in his court. If he wants to meet me, I'll meet him. If he doesn't want to meet me, I am not that keen.'Musharraf also criticised India for taking advantage of the ceasefire to accelerate construction of a fence along the Line of Control dividing Kashmir, a move he said showed New Delhi's 'insincerity' about seeking a peaceful solution.Amid Musharraf's talk of peace, the general's anger at his arch-foe often boiled over. 'I do strongly believe that they are intransigent, they suffer from arrogance of power,' he said. 'I am a proud Pakistani, I will never submit.'No sir, we will not forget Kashmir.'