November 2004 News

Singh Open To All Options On Kashmir

7 November 2004

Srinagar: India is willing to look at all options to resolve its long-running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, the Financial Times quotes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as saying. India has been cool to Pakistani proposals made through the media to end the dispute over Kashmir that has caused two of the three wars between the two nations. New Delhi has said it would not carry out such public peace negotiations. But, while he repeated India's demand that Pakistan end cross-border infiltration by Kashmiri rebels, Singh told Monday's FT in an interview India was ready to look at ideas put forward by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. 'As long as Pakistan remains committed (to ending cross-border terrorism), we are willing to look at all possible ways of resolving all outstanding issues, including on Jammu and Kashmir,' Singh told the paper. 'I think we are willing to look at all options to think about a new chapter and a new beginning.' India has long accused Pakistan of stoking a 15- year-old rebellion against New Delhi's rule in Jammu and Kashmir state, which has killed more than 40,000 people. But both sides are weary of the dispute, which almost flared into another war in 2002, and tentative peace discussions have been underway since last year. Singh said he would like to hear more about Musharraf's suggestions, which include demilitarising Kashmir and looking at options for its future including independence, joint control or some for of U.N. control. Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil, visiting India's only Muslim-majority state, said on Saturday he was ready for unconditional talks with separatist leaders, and had no objection if they wanted to visit Pakistan before talks were held. Most Kashmiri separatists, who have either not been given passports or have had them impounded by Indian authorities, cautiously welcomed the offer. Singh and Musharraf met in September. Further high-level talks are planned this month when Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz meets Singh during a stop in New Delhi for a regional meeting. Moderate separatist leaders held two rounds of talks with the Indian government this year, for the first time since the insurgency broke out in 1989. But the talks stalled after Singh's Congress-led government took power in May, as New Delhi diplomats pushed the long- held line that Kashmir was an integral part of India. Patil said on Saturday there were no conditions being put on peace talks by India, and Singh also took a conciliatory stance in the interview with the FT. 'President Musharraf has been realistic enough to say that solutions (on Kashmir) that are not acceptable to India should be out and solutions that are not acceptable to Pakistan should also be out,' he told the newspaper. 'I believe when dealing with seemingly intractable problems one has to be confident in one's own sincerity in trying to find a solution.' Violence has waned but not stopped in Kashmir. Fourteen were killed in a string of attacks as Patil began a three-day visit to the region on Saturday. On Sunday, Indian police said an army officer and two members of a Pakistan-based militant group were killed in a fierce gunbattle in the western Poonch district, and a member of Kashmir's ruling party was killed by suspected militants. India accuses Pakistan of arming, training and sending separatists into Kashmir. Islamabad calls the Kashmir rebellion an indigenous freedom struggle and accuses the Indian army of major human rights abuses in the region.


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