April 2004 News

New Delhi shrugs off remarks on Kashmir: 'Domestic compulsions' blamed

1 April 2004
The Dawn
Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI: Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishan Advani on Thursday said President Gen Pervez Musharraf's message that he would not be a party to the peace process with India if there was no forward movement on Kashmir issue flowed from 'domestic compulsions'. The mild remarks from the man seen as a hawk on ties with Pakistan accompanied reports from Srinagar that the United States was advising India to declare an internal truce across Jammu and Kashmir. 'I think Musharraf's statement stemmed out of domestic compulsions but so long as he sticks to a course decided at the secretary-level meeting, there should be no problem,' Mr Advani told reporters at Himmatnagar in Gujarat. He hoped that differences with Pakistan would be resolved through dialogue. Pointing to the joint statement signed by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Gen Musharraf in Islamabad early January, he declared it a landmark event. At the meetings between the joint secretaries and foreign secretaries of the two countries it was decided how to proceed for a dialogue, said Mr Advani. 'We should pursue the same direction,' he stressed. He said India was approaching the process with optimism. Asked if Gen Musharraf's message could be linked to Pakistan's new status as a major non-Nato ally of the United States, Mr Advani said 'We are concerned at it. We reacted strongly after it was done'. Asked if he would extend the India-Pakistan ceasefire to a truce with militants within Kashmir, Mr Advani cautiously said 'There is nothing as such at the moment'. However, the United News of India, reporting from Srinagar quoted sources in the All Parties Hurriyat Conference as saying the US was trying to prevail over India to declare a unilateral cease-fire there. Hurriyat sources told UNI on Thursday that the US had been making sincere efforts to persuade India to declare the truce in the troubled region. 'The Bush administration has been pushing for the cease-fire soon after the thaw in relations between India and Pakistan,' the sources said. 'Regular meetings between the Hurriyat (leaders) and US diplomats here before and after its talks with the centre are an indication that the Bush administration is playing a friendly and leading role in the ongoing peace process,' UNI quoted the unidentified sources as saying. During a recent meeting with the diplomats, a Hurriyat delegation was assured that the US would speed up efforts to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue. UNI said Mr Advani had assured the delegation that he would take up the issue with the army and other security agencies.


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