Pakistan Regrets India's Remark On Centrality Of Kashmir
15 March 2004
Islamabad: In a cautious reaction to the Indian riposte to the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf's statement on the centrality of Kashmir for betterment of relations between India and Pakistan, Islamabad said it 'regretted' the statement by New Delhi. 'The statement is regrettable ... the Jammu and Kashmir issue has bedevilled relations between Pakistan and India,' the Foreign Office spokesman, Masood Khan, told a weekly briefing from a prepared text. He was remarking on the reaction to the observations by Gen. Musharraf on Saturday via satellite to the India Today conclave. He accused the Ministry of External Affairs of making 'erroneous attributions' to Gen. Musharraf and said the President had in his remarks confirmed Pakistan's determination to seek a peaceful solution of all outstanding issues notably the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. 'The Jammu and Kashmir dispute is the core issue that has bedevilled relations between Pakistan and India. The need for a peaceful resolution of this dispute, in accordance with legitimate Kashmiri aspirations, is self-evident. Any attempt to portray Kashmir as an issue of terrorism is incorrect,' Mr. Khan said. He said Pakistan stood committed to pursuing the process initiated by Gen. Musharraf and the Indian Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, on January 6. Mr. Khan said that in pursuance of the agreement reached between the Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India on February 18, Pakistan looked forward to a meaningful and sustained engagement on all issues on the composite dialogue agenda in accordance with the agreed schedule. In response a question, he said it was a good thing that Mr. Vajpayee and the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, had been talking of pragmatism and 'this is what we have been saying. There has to be flexibility if we want to make some progress. The two sides should show flexibility and there should be matching reciprocity.' He said there could be peace between the two countries if the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was resolved. The two sides should look for common ground and should seek areas of convergence rather than divergence. The spokesman said the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, would be in Pakistan on March 17 and 18. He will call on Gen. Musharraf and the Prime Minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan, and also hold talks with the Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri. The Under Secretary of Economics, Business, and Agriculture Affairs, Allen Larson, and Christina Rocca would accompany Mr. Powell among others. The two sides will discuss areas of mutual interest, cooperation in the ongoing war on terrorism, Pakistan-India relations, situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and the recent steps by Pakistan for non-proliferation. He said the two countries enjoyed friendly relations and both desired mutual broad- based long-term relations particularly in the security field. In response to a question Mr. Khan rejected media reports that Mr. Powell would meet General Kidwai for a briefing on steps taken by Pakistan against nuclear proliferation. On the reports that Mr. Vajpayee might come over to watch one of the cricket matches in Pakistan, Mr. Khan said there was no such proposal. Asked if Pakistan would provide samples of uranium to the International Atomic Energy Agency to enable it to verify nuclear programme in Iran, Mr. Khan said Pakistan had been cooperating with the U.N. agency and would continue to do so with regard to other countries being investigated. On the investigation into the nuclear proliferation, Mr. Khan said the probe was continuing. 'We are satisfied with the investigation and we will continue to get information with an objective to eliminating the underground network.' Asked about the operation 'Mountain Storm,' he said the U.S. forces on the Afghan side along the Pak-Afghan border would conduct it. The objective was to restore and ensure the political stability for development and reconstruction work in Afghanistan.