December 2003 News

Clinton mediating on Kashmir

24 December 2003
The Dawn
Ihtasham ul Haque

ISLAMABAD: President Gen Pervez Musharraf has told the Kashmiri leaders that former US president Bill Clinton has been unofficially mediating between India and Pakistan to help them hold talks early next year to resolve the dispute. At a meeting with the Kashmiri leaders on Monday, the president hoped to see Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Jan 6 in Islamabad, an informed source told Dawn on Wednesday. Officials are working on a plan under which either the president would invite Mr Vajpayee for informal talks over tea or the Indian primer would call on Mr Musharraf under the conventional protocol. The president said Mr Clinton was in 'regular contact' with him and Mr Vajpayee, and was keeping the Bush administration abreast of the situation. After meeting the Kashmiri leaders, the source said, Gen Musharraf made a telephone call to Mr Clinton and informed him about the developments taking place in the region. The president, sources said, told the Kashmiri leaders that the time had come when he and Mr Vajpayee could achieve a 'breakthrough' to settle the dispute. He termed the year 2004 as 'very significant'. The president quoted Mr Clinton as having said that he had been asked by the Indian prime minister whether Gen Musharraf could be trusted. 'The reply by Mr Clinton was that the Pakistani president could be trusted as he sincerely wanted to push forward the peace process for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute,' the source said. Mr Clinton also told Mr Vajpayee that there had been a substantial reduction in the cross- border infiltration and now was the time to initiate a composite dialogue. 'The former US president convinced the Indian prime minister that the United States is monitoring the movement across the LoC and that it (the US) has an effective surveillance system that verified substantial reduction in the cross-border movement,' the source said, quoting the president. During the meeting, the president agreed with Azad Kashmir PP leader Barrister Sultan Mehmood that while Pakistan had shown enough flexibility, Mr Clinton should now convince the Indian government to reciprocate by setting aside its insistence that Kashmir was an integral part of India, releasing all Kashmiri detainees, withdrawing troops from the Valley and lifting restrictions on the international travelling of the APHC leaders. 'The president told us that he was never so hopeful as he is today to get the Kashmir dispute resolved,' a participant of the meeting said. There are 12 options reportedly being discussed these days in India and Pakistan as well as in the international community to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Chenab formula topped the list, sources said. The other options include LoC should be converted into the international border; Sir Owen Dixon's (former Australian prime minister) formula of holding a regional plebiscite; an independent Kashmir, which Pakistan vaguely accepts but is not acceptable to India and even China; Triest formula championed by senior Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar through which Italy gave certain disputed land to defunct Yugoslavia; Irish peace plan; a plan that offered Aann island to Finland by Sweden and finally making the LoC a porous border to allow the divided families to meet each other. 'Then there is a Kashmir study group of the United States which apparently supports Chenab formula according to which demographic composition should be taken into consideration,' a source said.


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