April 2004 News

Musharraf's Deadline Withdrawn

12 April 2004
The Daily Excelsior

Jammu: Whatever his compulsions, President-General Pervez Musharraf did think it necessary to issue a veiled threat to push matters more directly towards Kashmir. Either he has run out of confidence building measures (CBM) or he thinks that before a phase of renewed cross-border terrorism it is necessary to sound a warning. Clearly there are some who believe that India must pander to the terrorists if relations between the two countries are to improve. Commenting on the clarification issued by the Pakistan Foreign Office that Musharraf did not warn of a deadline up to August on Kashmir, DAWN says editorially: 'One hopes that New Delhi, as the stronger of the two sides, will take CBMs on its own to instill confidence among the Kashmiris about India's interest in finding a just solution of the Kashmir problem. 'The Foreign Office spokesman's clarification on the 'deadline' episode should serve to remove any misunderstandings that might have been caused by President Pervez Musharraf's purported remarks. A deadline coming from the President after all the good things that have happened in South Asia would have sounded incongruous. 'The incongruity would have been greater because it was supposed to have come from a leader who, despite being a military man has been fully a part of the current process to move Pakistan and India away from the path of confrontation. 'The Foreign Office says the President never used the word 'deadline', that he was misquoted, and that all he had done was to refer to the ministerial- level talks scheduled for July and August. The foreign secretaries are to meet in May and June and prepare the agenda for the Foreign Ministers' meeting. 'At this meeting a composite dialogue that would include Kashmir would be taken up. The President was not wide off the mark when he said that without a solution to the Kashmir issue, it would be unrealistic to expect normalisation of relations between the two countries.' DAWN adds: 'There are now two overriding considerations that Islamabad and New Delhi must be clear about. First, the confidence-building measures have been a great success - something which can be gauged from the popular response on both sides of the border to the recent developments. 'On a larger plane, the world has welcomed the detente and wishes that the two continue on this path of sanity. At this critical juncture, thus, both sides should continue to exercise restraint in rhetorics and follow policies that would consolidate the ground already covered. 'Secondly, there is need for New Delhi to have a more constructive approach to the situation in Kashmir. The Valley continues to be in a state of turmoil and violence, and not a day passes without casualties on both sides. Those who die include civilians. 'Shooting between 'freedom fighters' and the Indian security forces continue, and every now and then one hears of some Kashmiri leader arrested. This way, the overall atmosphere does not reflect the ambiance of goodwill and relaxation that exists a present in Indo-Pak relations.' A NEWS report from Islamabad refers to a unique method of priming détente: 'Some 'high-value personalities' of the subcontinent are likely to lead a 'peace parade' from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar on the occasion of Pakistan's Independence Day falling on August 14. ­ 'Various international peacemakers have proposed that President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpavee should grace the inaugural ceremony of Muzaffarabad- Srinagar bus service, the sources said. 'A technical-level meeting between the two sides is going to be held in Islamabad to finalise the details and procedures, and the dry run between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar is expected to start from August 1, as proposed earlier. 'Various international stakeholders involved in the Kashmir peace process have proposed 'soft border' formula to facilitate people of Jammu and Kashmir. Under this formula native Kashmiris could be allowed to travel across the Line of Control (LoC) on the United Nations documents instead of passport and visa. 'We have no problem on' 'soft border' formula, in principle Pakistan always wanted UN role in the Kashmir peace initiative,' said a senior diplomat. 'Pakistan had already proposed that the UN officials should man all checkpoints at the LoC and people should travel on the UN documents. Pakistan had also welcomed the proposal to appoint UN monitors on the buses provided India accepted it an official said. 'India had previously refused to accept special identity cards or permits issued by the UN or any other external agency as valid travel documents they did not want to give any role to the UN in 'bilateral matters. 'Both sides have drawn up a detailed plan, including immigration checks at the LoC, military escort and construction of a new bridge for launching the bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. 'Documents of both India and Pakistan will be acceptable,' the official said 'Details of travel documents to be accepted are being worked out.' The relevant quarters are confident that both sides could reach an understanding that would 'minimise controversy in Pakistan, India and Kashmir on this sensitive issue'.' The NEWS adds: 'The bus will not stop anywhere between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar to pick up or drop passengers. India is reluctant to allow a halt at Baramulla, the biggest town between Srinagar and Uri. Residents of the area will have to go all the way to Srinagar to board the bus, as the Indians think a halt at Baramulla is not feasible in the present security environment. 'Army personnel will escort the bus till the LoC on both sides like the non-stop Delhi- Lahore bus for which the states en route provide police security. The route between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar already has a paved road and top would take less than three hours. 'The Muzaffarabad-Srinagar highway was the Kashmir Valley's only major window to the outside world till the mid-1940s. All trade and commerce with the rest of the subcontinent was routed through this road. This 250-km highway, known as the Uri Road, was dosed in 1947 after independence of Pakistan and India. 'The real estate prices along the Baramulla-Uri stretch of Muzaffarabad-Srinagar highway are said to have shot up in the past few months, since Pakistan and India proposed the opening of the route. 'This, more than anything else, signals the enormous economic potential of the region,' pointed out a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Commerce. 'Besides the conventional diplomatic channels, both sides are basically depending on special, emissaries. The Vajpayee's 'Adviser on Foreign Affairs Brajesh Mishra, and Secretary of the National Security Council and a confidant of preside Musharraf Tariq Aziz, are playing pivotal role on this sensitive issue.' Welcoming the joint pledge of Pakistan and India to work towards non-proliferation of nuclear technology, JANG editorially says: 'Both the countries have made it clear that they will not sign the NPT but at the same time both have committed to cooperating with the world community in its efforts to check nuclear proliferation, and it is definitely a good omen. In fact, nuclear technology should be used for the welfare of the people and not for destruction.'


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